This anthem from 1968 is an effective anti-war protest song that is not over the top in its condemnation of war. It tells the story of a military chaplain – the sky pilot- blessing soldiers about to be shipped out for a patrol or raid, who then prays for their safety. The narrator suggests that war comes with high costs but may be inevitable throughout history.
The subject is probably the Vietnam War, although the bagpipes played might suggest otherwise.
The length of the tune meant it has been split in two for vinyl 45 pressings, and comes across as a concept album compressed into one song. The opening of the song is sung without instrumental backing by Eric Burdon, and after a few verses and choruses, found sounds depict the battle the soldiers are engaged in, while flanging effects impact the playing of the musicians.
The song concludes with the chilling recitation of one of the Ten Commandments, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” Incidentally, justified murder such as legitimate battles may be permitted in other sections of the Bible, including Deuteronomy 20:10-18.