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Anti-war protest songs of the '60s and '70s

Popular songs about an unpopular war


"I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" - Country Joe and The Fish

Country Joe and The Fish
Vanguard Records

Come on mothers throughout the land
Pack your boys off to Vietnam
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box

Joe McDonald's solo performance of his biting satire at Woodstock wasn't planned. He was on stage filling time while acts who were scheduled to perform tried to make it through the massive traffic jams to get there. When "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" (written in 1965 and released in 1967) was featured in the Woodstock film and its soundtrack in 1970, it became a fixture in the anti-war protest songbook, and one of the songs for which Country Joe and The Fish were best known.
Watch live performance of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag" at Woodstock

"Masters of War" - Bob Dylan

Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Columbia Records

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Bob Dylan took dead aim at what President Dwight Eisenhower had dubbed the "military-industrial complex" consisting of the military, Congress, and weapons manufacturers. "Masters of War" appeared on the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album in 1963 and as America's involvement in Vietnam over the next few years grew, so did the popularity of the song with anti-war protesters.
Listen to "Masters of War"

"Universal Soldier" - Donovan

Donovan - Universal Soldier
EMI Distribution

He's the universal soldier
And he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from here and there and you and me
And brothers can't you see
This is not the way we put the end to war

Written and recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie for her 1964 debut album, "Universal Soldier" became a hit after Donovan's version was released as a single the following year. It became one of the best known entries in his catalog of what he called (in a 2006 interview) "the songs of social change, civil rights, peace, brotherhood, and a great nuclear cloud hanging over the late 50s and the early 60s."
Watch a live performance of "Universal Soldier" by Donovan
Watch a live performance of "Universal Soldier" by Buffy Sainte-Marie

"War" - Edwin Starr

Motown Records

Life is much to short and precious
To spend fighting wars these days
War can't give life
It can only take it away

War, what is it good for?
Absolutely nothing!

Already a successful R&B artist with songs like "Agent Double-O-Soul" and "Oh How Happy," Edwin Starr crossed genres in a big way with "War." The song, an instant hit when it was released in 1970, is still one of the best known war protest songs of the era. Bruce Springsteen's 1986 cover had nearly as much chart success as the original.
Listen to "War"
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