With West Coast Psychedelic Rock band Country Joe & the Fish he released the controversial anti-war anthem “The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” that became emblematic of the 1960’s Woodstock generation as well as the Vietnam veterans of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The 1960’s counter-culture icon Country Joe McDonald celebrates 78 today
During the late 1960’s Country Joe & the Fish were one of the most popular and controversial bands of the West Coast/San Francisco area Psychedelic Rock sound. The lead singer-songwriter Joe McDonald was born on January 1, 1942 in Washington D.C, showing interest for music from a young age, becoming the conductor and president of his high school marching band. Surprisingly, this counter-culture icon and one of the best known faces of anti-Vietnam protests, enlisted in the United States Navy for three years stationed in Japan. During the mid 1960’s with the world changing drastically, Joe McDonald formed Country Joe & The Fish together with Barry Melton. The band became quickly popular among the San Francisco growing Psychedelic Rock scene alongside bands such as the Grateful Dead, Big Brother & the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane among others. Helping their popularity at the time were their eclectic performances at the trendy Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium. In 1967, at the peak of the Psychedelic Rock popularity the band released their acclaimed debut “Electric Music for the Mind and Body” which is regarded as their most experimental work, a Psychedelic Rock essential album that included songs such as their only U.S charting single “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”. That same year, the band played at the famous Monterey Pop Festival offering one of the most memorable performances of the legendary festival. Their second album “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die”, also their most controversial, was marked by more political lyrics, most famously, the title track “The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” a black comedy novelty song about the Vietnam War, whose familiar chorus “One, two, three, what are we fighting for?” became emblematic of the 1960’s Woodstock generation as well as the Vietnam veterans of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The controversial song, politically fueled with anti war messages became so controversial that The Ed Sullivan Show canceled a previously scheduled appearance by the band, telling them to keep the money they had already been paid in exchange for never playing on the show. In 1969 the band released their third album, “Together”, a less well known or popular work and also played the Woodstock festival, where McDonald gave a solo performance of the controversial “The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” with the audience singing along to it. By the 1970’s Country Joe & the Fish split and McDonald embarked on a solo carer, releasing several albums, one of the most famous ones “Paris Sessions”, released on the Vanguard label, the same as Country Joe & the Fish, in 1973. Throughout the years Joe McDonald has released several albums and collaborated with other artists, he also put together briefly in 2004 three of the original members of Country Joe and the Fish, touring the U.S and parts of Europe as the Country Joe Band.Most recently he was one of the confirmed artists for the cancelled 2019 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. McDonald, who turns 78 today, released his latest album “50”in 2017 and still engages actively in political protests, and offers his voice singing his 1960’s anthem regularly for new generations.
Watch Country Joe McDonald delivering the iconic performance of “The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” live at the Woodstock Festival 1969
Watch Country Joe & The Fish performing Rock & Soul Music live at the Woodstock Festival 1969
Also watch Country Joe & The Fish performing Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine live at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967
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