#919: 1967, Country Joe and The Fish, I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag

by Jackie_South on August 11, 2014

Here at Songs to Learn and Sing, we are halfway through a week of anti-war songs. So far, we’ve covered the First World War and the Iraq War. But of course it was the Vietnam War that inspired more music than any other, and whilst that war by no means created the political song, it did make it mainstream to the extent that it became a pop music staple for the next two decades.

‘Country Joe’ McDonald actually wrote the words to this in 1965, right at the start of the war. By 1967, he had teamed up with Barry ‘The Fish’ Melton and the I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag became their debut, and most famous single. It was still a bit ahead of its time in 1967 (the Tet Offensive in January 1968 was when the Anti-Vietnam movement gathered a critical momentum) and was a bit of a hippy niche song by a pair of unfashionable commies (‘Country Joe’ was a nickname for Stalin, whilst ‘The Fish’ was a Maoist reference).

But by the time of Woodstock in 1969, Country Joe McDonald’s politics had become sufficiently mainstream for the audience for him to be able to lead the famous singalong shown in our clip (even if ‘The Fish’ had long since swum off his own way by then).

The song is a brilliant piece of dark, sarcastic piss-taking out of the authorities sending young men to Vietnam:

Well, come on mothers throughout the land, 
Pack your boys off to Vietnam. 
Come on fathers, don’t hesitate, 
Send ’em off before it’s too late. 
Be the first one on your block 
To have your boy come home in a box

It is also a great singalong. Come on everybody, one more time…

And it’s one, two, three, 
What are we fighting for ? 
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn, 
Next stop is Vietnam. 
And it’s five, six, seven, 
Open up the pearly gates, 
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why 
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die. 


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Geoff Elliott August 12, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Great call Jackie, as good an anti-war song as there is. And what a film it’s take from. Woodstock never ceases to amaze me. The scale of the event is beyond anything since.


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