All the Fixins’

Country Joe McDonald proudly collects on his website adaptations of his “Fixin’ to Die Rag” for just about every political crisis since Vietnam. For example:

“And it’s one, two, three,

What are we searching for?

George said it, it must be true.

I believe in W.

And it’s five, six, seven,

Tell me who I should hate.

There’s no need to wonder why,

‘Cause Presidents never lie.”

Refresh your memory; here’s the original (in RealAudio).

1:

D

Come on all of you big strong men,

G

Uncle Sam needs your help again.

D

He’s got himself in a terrible jam

G

Way down yonder in Vietnam

E7 A

So put down your books and pick up a gun,

D G

We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun.

Chorus:

A7 A#7 D

And it’s one, two, three,

D7 G

What are we fighting for?

D

Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,

G

Next stop is Vietnam;

A7 A#7 D

And it’s five, six, seven,

D7 G

Open up the pearly gates,

E A

Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

D G

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

2:

D

Come on generals, let’s move fast;

G

Your big chance has come at last.

D

Gotta go out and get those reds —

G

The only good commie is the one that’s dead

E7 A

You know that peace can only be won

D G

When we’ve blown ’em all to kingdom come.

[Chorus]

3:

D

Come on Wall Street, don’t move slow,

G

Why man, this is war au-go-go.

D

There’s plenty good money to be made

G

Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,

E7 A

Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,

D G

They drop it on the Viet Cong.

[Chorus]

4:

D

Come on mothers throughout the land,

G

Pack your boys off to Vietnam.

D

Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,

G

Send your sons off before it’s too late.

E7 A

You can be the first one on your block

D G

To have your boy come home in a box.

[Chorus]

And: ‘In 1970, Pete Seeger recorded a ‘lost’ version of “Fixin’ to Die Rag” for a 45 release. At least a few advance DJ copies were produced; McDonald reproduces one on his website. “But something went wrong. The details are unclear, but Pete did mention once that the distributors refused to handle it. It was never released, and shortly afterward Pete left Columbia, his longtime label.

Now for the first time since the 70s, you can hear this lost recording (RealAudio too) .”

And: Country Joe was sued by the daughter of the late New Orleans jazz trombonist Kid Ory after she obtained the rights to her father’s famous “Muskrat Ramble” in the late ’90’s; she claimed “Fixin’ to Die” was an infringement on her father’s song. ‘Kid Ory died in 1973 but Babette says his dying request was that she “nail that bastard, McDonald” because he hated the song’s anti-war stance and profane lyrics.’ Until the suit was resolved, Joe stopped performing the song on stage after being warned that doing so could subject him to a $150,000 fine. He eventually prevailed, largely on the basis of the doctrine of laches, which I understand as the legal principle that it is negligent to wait too long to assert a legal right. Not to mention the dubious musicological proposition of Ory’s rights to the song, a New Orleans jazz staple, in the first place, as well as the doctrine of fair use, as well as the arguable lack of similarity of the two songs (even though McDonald has acknowledged “Muskrat Ramble” as an influence on “FtDR”).