With Remembrance Sunday the day after tomorrow, and this being the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, today I thought I would share this sobering song sung by Donovan – “Universal Solider”. This song was composed in 1964 by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, but I must admit I have only ever heard the Donovan version and, before putting this blog together, I thought he had written the song.
Donovan recorded his cover version in 1965, releasing it in the August of that year on an EP (Extended Play). It got to number 5 in the Disunited Kingdom singles charts. It was also a minor hit in the US, getting to number 53 in the Billboard charts. The song is, looking at the lyrics from the perspective of 2014, very naive and idealistic, but that was typical of the 1960s.
I must admit I agree with much of the sentiment of the song, except that I do not think we can blame soldiers for wars, we need to blame the politicians who send them into war. Soldiers follow orders, and those orders ultimately come from politicians. As we remember the hundreds of thousands who died in the First World War this weekend, and the millions who have died in other wars, we should give a thought to wondering whether a species as intelligent as we cannot find a better way to resolve our differences.
He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.
He’a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.
And he’s fighting for Canada,
He’s fighting for France,
He’s fighting for the USA,
And he’s fighting for the Russians,
And he’s fighting for Japan,
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way.
And he’s fighting for Democracy,
He’s fighting for the Reds,
He says it’s for the peace of all.
He’s the one who must decide,
Who’s to live and who’s to die,
And he never sees the writing on the wall.
But without him,
How would Hitler have condemned them at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone,
He’s the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can’t go on.
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.
Here is alive performance by Donovan of the song. Enjoy!
What do you think of the lyrics? Idealistic? Unrealistic? Simplistic?