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I read on https://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858626308/ that the tiger could be a heroin needle with black measurement lines on the outside being the stripes.

The song is from 1974 and Julius Evola released Cavalcare La Tigre ("Ride the Tiger") in 1961, so I wondered if that was the inspiration. Both could fit, but I'm curious if someone knows more definitely.

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  • the lyrics are a bit trippy/druggy. Jefferson Starship was an evolution of the Jefferson Airplane band, who were no strangers to drugs and songs about them. "Urban Dictionary" - not always reliable - has a number of possible defintions, two of which relate to drug use - heroin (similar to "chase the dragon" maybe?) or psychedelics. I'd be inclined to think it is more about drugs and tripping. – Angst Aug 1 '20 at 13:37
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This will be mainly a guess, but not out of thin air: I've read "Ride the Tiger" by Julius Evola a few times, and have heard the song by Starship.

In my mind there is no connection between the book and the lyrics of the song unless you really stretch it. Plus the English translation of the book probably wasn't available at the time the song was written (I might be wrong in this).

But I do think the song connects well with a movie by the same name "Ride The Tiger". I haven't seen the movie, but Wikipedia summarises the plot in one sentence:

The partner of a slain nightclub owner seeks out an Asian underworld big shot.

In this case the date connects pretty well (1970 for the movie, 1974 for the album). Plus the lyrics seem to be a lot in sync. Specially the parts about "Asian man", "love between man and a woman"


And in case you are wondering why Julius Evola book doesn't fit - Evola believed that the humanity is not progressing but regressing. And in the book he described a way to be in such a world with an analogy of "riding the tiger" with the tiger representing everything bad happening in the world and a man being "spiritually" on top and using the decaying world around him for his spiritual growth. If the song was based on the book I assume we would see a negative image of the tiger and more spiritual themes in the lyrics.

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  • Damn. That actually fits pretty well. Thanks. – Step Start Aug 3 '20 at 8:33
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I think this is about how aspiration and success is conceived according to views seen through the eyes of different cultures. Where "riding the tiger" could be the epitome of success. The central clue is the lyric "Black wants out of the street. Yellow wants the country. Red wants the country back. White wants out of this world"

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According to this:

The song, co-written by Kantner, Slick, and a Chinese friend named Byong Yu, spouts the virtues of Eastern philosophy and outlook, championing it as deeper and more meaningful than Western attitudes.

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