You know I’ve smoked a lot of grass
O’ Lord, I’ve popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin’
That my spirit could kill
You know, I’ve seen a lot of people walkin’ ’round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don’t care
Ah, if you live or if you die
The late singer/songwriter Hoyt Axton wrote the original lyrics to The Pusher for use in a California anti-drug public service campaign after a friend overdosed on drugs, but singer John Kay asked him to expand the lyrics into a full song which Kay’s band "Steppenwolf," turned into a hit in 1968.
Axton, who fought his own battles with booze and drugs, wrote many songs about drugs, including Snowblind Friend, which Steppenwolf also recorded, and The No No Song, which Ringo Star turned into a minor hit.
When he wrote The Pusher, Axton felt there was a difference between a "dealer," who provided marijuana and LSD, and a "pusher," who sold hard drugs like cocaine and heroin:
You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he’s not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
Lord, he’ll leave your, he’ll leave your mind to scream
But Axton later said he was wrong. In 1997, two years before his death, he told Musician magazine:
If I had it all to do over again, I’d never touch booze, grass or any drug. All of it rots your brain, man, and it destroys your soul. Drugs eat away at our society. They are the devil’s toys and the devil is laughing every time someone gets high. There ain’t no difference between a dealer and a pusher.
Here in Floyd County, we’ve got dealers and we’ve got pushers. We’ve got growers and tweekers and cookers and cutters. We’ve got those who sell it and those who give it away. We’ve got grass, coke, crack, meth and still some moonshine.
Hoyt Axton was right. There ain’t no difference. They all push poison that rots your brain.
He summed it up best in The Pusher:
God damn The Pusher
Gad damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man
(Lyrics from The Pusher © Irving Music Inc. (BMI). Used with permission)