The opening lines of this song, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Never understood a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine," are part of some wonderful song meaning speculation. A common interpretation is that Axton's bullfrog is the prophet Jeremiah from The Bible, and we've seen at least one sermon that makes that case that the song represents God's desire to unite all people in happiness (the bullfrog, with his distinctive call that stands out in nature, is God's voice in this interpretation). There's also a case for John Jeremiah, the keyboardist for the '70s rock group Aliotta, Haynes and Jeremiah, who are best known for their song "Lake Shore Drive
." Axton, however, told a different story about the famous lyric. With the chorus and melody already written, he added some placeholder lyrics where he intended to write proper verses. What came out of his mouth was that famous first line. Axton explained in the Oregon News-Review
: "Jeremiah was an expedient of the time. I had the chorus for three months. I took a drink of wine, leaned on the speaker, and said 'Jeremiah was a bullfrog.' It was meaningless. It was a temporary lyric. Before I could rewrite it, they cut it and it was a hit."
So it was that these nonsense placeholder lyrics became part of rock history. Religious interpretations rarely take into account that Axton was more of a hellraiser than student of the Bible: he was a heavy drinker and pot smoker with a passion for fast cars, women and motorcycles. By the time he wrote this song, he was twice divorced with hundreds of speeding tickets on his record.