Country Joe Mcdonald Essay, Research Paper
History Music Project
Two of the most memorable of events of the 60s were the Vietnam War and Woodstock. Joe McDonald, was a part of both. The song which I was randomly assigned was Fixin To Die Rag by Country Joe McDonald. However, this is only the song s pop-culture name. The song s full name is I Feel Like I m Fixin To Die Rag. Also, Joe McDonald started a band, called The Fish, which he belonged to. But, in Fixin To Die Rag , Country Joe performs alone, strumming his guitar and singing his lyrics. The song is most famous for Country Joe s performance at Woodstock back in 1969. In fact, this performance was so famous, that the only version of the song available on the Internet is the live version from Woodstock. To tell the truth, when I first heard Fixin To Die Rag , my friends who were over, Matt Kramer and Matt Stephenson, and I started laughing. We thought the song was really funny because it sounded really hick-like and country . However, after listening to the lyrics a few times, I began to understand the purpose and meaning of the song. Not only did I learn about the feelings of the Vietnam War through the song, but I also could see how pop-culture music evolves over time. Fixin To Die Rag , categorized as folk music, was extremely popular during the 60s and 70s, yet it is mocked in current times. It was clear though that this song was about the Vietnam and America. In fact, one line even goes, Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,/They drop it on the Viet Cong. After listening to the lyrics of the song a few more times, I conducted research on Country Joe McDonald to find more about the song and his life. After learning about Country Joe s life, experiences, and feelings, I was able to get an even better understanding of the meaning of the song.
Country Joe McDonald actually fought in the Vietnam War. He had been in the U.S. Navy for several years. After being discharged, he wrote Fixin To Die Rag in the summer of 1965. It was a spur of the moment occurrence, the idea popped into his head and he wrote the song in 30 minutes. The entire song is about the Vietnam War and is known as an anti-war song or protest song. Country Joe McDonald once said in an interview, The song attempts to put blame for the war upon the politicians and leaders of the US military and upon the industry that makes its money from war but not upon those who had to fight the war … the soldiers. This was the way many Americans felt during the war. They were upset at the government and upset at losing the lives of young American males. McDonald also shares how many young American males felt cheated and trapped within the system that the US government setup. Conscription , or better known as the draft, was felt as the government blackmailing people, forcing Americans to fight for something they didn t believe in. If they didn t go to war, they d be forced to go to jail. Americans were frustrated with being forced into the war, risking their lives for something they didn t believe in. As the lyrics go, What are we fighting for?/Don t ask me, I don t give a damn,/Next stop is Vietnam. This shows the anti-war feelings and lack of interest by Americans at the time. McDonald had experienced the war first-hand and was sharing the feelings many others felt, through his song. When the song was released in 1965, it helped start and fuel the Vietnam Day Teach-In, a massive anti-war protest in Berkley, CA. This shows the influence of music in American culture. McDonald had the same feelings that many Americans felt, and Fixin To Die Rag just strengthened their beliefs.
Upon the first time listening to the song, it might seem a little confusing. Many parts of the song sound pro-war, which is strange since this song is clearly supposed to be an anti-Vietnam War song. For example, one lyric goes, So put down your books and pick up a gun,/Gonna have a whole lotta fun, as well as, Now you can go out and get those reds/’Cause the only good commie is the one that’s dead. This was confusing to me the first few times I listened to the song. However, I discovered that this is just sarcasm and the song is supposed to be slightly humorous. On, Country Joe s personal website, McDonald comments on how most parts of the song are facetious, using a sarcastic humor known as, G.I. humor. McDonald addresses the horrors of war through this use of dark humor. G.I. humor was a way people had of complaining about their situations so it would not get them in trouble and keep them from going insane in the insane environment of war.
My first impression of the song was that it was stupid. However, after listening to the song a few more times and researching about the song itself and Country Joe, I started to get a much better understanding of the message and feelings being relayed through the song. I saw how much of an impact the song had, and how it comforted Americans because they could have something to hold their common feelings together. Although, the song is not too pleasing to the ears of people of modern American culture, the message and idea of the song is still strong. The meaning of the song doesn t apply to the present, because the song is strictly about the Vietnam War. Although it is impossible for me to entirely grasp the concept of this song because I was not alive during the 60s and was not part of the anti-war movement, I still understand the feelings of individuals of this time.