An AM radio anti-war message that highlights the ignorance of greed.
This song was originally done by a Canadian band, The Original Caste, but this 1971 version is better known, having been in a film, “Billy Jack.”
It’s a song with a story. It resonates on listening, with the Pachelbel Canon type melody. The lyrics might seem simplistic and Dr. Seuss-like when summarized in print.
There is a nation or country (the mountain people), and a warring nation or country (the valley people). The mountain people have a hidden treasure that they will share with the valley people. But the valley people want it all for themselves. So they kill off the good guys. But then… spoiler alert… the treasure is just a message about peace!
The joke’s on the you, genocidal valley boys and girls!
International conflict is rarely this simple and never this hummable!
A 1990 (dud) concept album from a country singer! Third World Warrior included this song, with Kris stating that his country kills babies, children and farmers, in the fight against communism.
It is not easy to make light of innocent civilians getting killed in wars. It certainly happens. There is often more concern for killed US soldiers, than their victims, innocent or not. The Korean and Vietnam wars apparently had enormous civilian death tolls. Today, targeted killings, such as that of Osama bin Laden, and using more precise weapons, are strategies hoped to reduce this carnage.
This gospel song was published in 1918. It has been performed by many artists. It also goes by other titles, such as Down By The Riverside. Verses change, are added and deleted, in the manner of a true folk song that adapts over time. Regardless, the message of the song is to lay down instruments of war as a means to secure and maintain peace. The message remains important.
This version is by folk singer Leadbelly (1888-1949), who often played the 12-string guitar. Moby updated the tune many decades later.
Bob Dylan sang about the Cold War back in 1963. Not totally accepting that the world would end from nuclear destruction, he nonetheless poetically sang about preferring to sleep (and die) in a meadow rather than hide in a fallout shelter.
In the 1950s, fallout shelters, often underground, were built to avoid coming into contact with and to provide protection from “fallout.” This is the radioactive material that would be produced from nuclear explosions.
Conscription is the formal term for the draft. It is when governments compel military service from citizens to fill vacancies. It is considered necessary to have the personnel to wage wars, but controversial for reducing personal freedom and choice. One may be able to lawfully avoid conscription for religious and moral reasons, as a conscientious objector. Draft dodgers unlawfully go into hiding to avoid military service… and hope for amnesty.
Country Joe McDonald, of Country Joe and the Fish, was let out from the US Navy. He sang this 1967 song a few years later, at the original Woodstock, kind of on a lark and against his wishes.
It became an anthem against the Vietnam War, which is the “next stop,” meaning more deaths to come in more places. With this “GI humor” and a dollop of nihilism, it blames political leaders for the war. It denigrates large corporations that profit it. Soldiers are expendable pawns.
The song was also controversial for being borrowed in composition from an old ragtime tune. And of course, for the F-word “F.I.S.H.” cheer that sometimes introduced it.
With so many challenges in the world, perhaps it’s best just to let the band play on. Not taking a political stance, the Temptations list ills such as racism, war, drugs, gun violence, government spending and taxes… even local government with a reference to city inspectors. Yet it is not a song of apathy or giving up, but perhaps realistic for not attempting to predict where things are headed. The chaotic, pyschedelic arrangement may attest to this. Or, that Motown was not interested in protest records despite the times.