“Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish is one of the iconic songs of the 1960’s. With an insidiously catchy melody the song dispensed every odious anti-Vietnam War cliche urged by the hippie/yippie crowd of 1967. By 1972, it was that crowd that had taken over the Democratic Party and that proceeded to take over higher education and the elite media.
According to the song, America’s cause in Vietnam derived from crazed anti-Communism, ticket-punching generals and Wall Street profiteers. In the concluding verse, the song sarcastically derides martial sacrifice in a vile manner:
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.
“Fixin’ To Die Rag” was the brainchild of Joe McDonald (Country Joe), a Navy veteran and folk/jug band artist who adapted his music to suit San Francisco’s late 1960’s psychedelic milieu.
McDonald formed the Fish and the group’s debut album, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body,” was released by Vanguard in January 1967 featuring the group’s psychedelic sound. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” was the most memorable song on the album. “Fixin’ To Die Rag” — a song that had been held off the debut album by Vanguard — quickly followed on the group’s late-1967 second album.
Today’s Washington Times provides a somewhat surprising update on McDonald’s views: “County Joe still says no.” McDonald has declined an offer to receive a World Peace Music Award in Hanoi. He drily notes, “As a hippie protest songwriter, I could not exist in Vietnam today.”
McDonald’s first thoughts weren’t deep, and his second thoughts aren’t much deeper. But it is a relief to see that the drugs appear to have done no permanent damage, and that age has not otherwise impaired his percipience. McDonald observes: “I…find it interesting that Matt Taylor [a World Peace Music Awards promoter] had to run the lyrics [of “Fixin’ To Die”] by the Vietnamese government for approval, and that the approval was given.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
For younger readers, the Times article helpfully concludes: “In 1975, after North Vietnam invaded U.S.-backed South Vietnam and united the Southeast Asian nation, Hanoi’s communists enforced a regime rife with human rights abuses.”