Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


McDONALD, Country Joe

(b 1 January 1942, El Monte CA) Singer, songwriter, guitarist, bandleader: an urban folkie whose band Country Joe and the Fish established him in protest, but who wrote mostly non-protest songs and was always a first-rate entertainer. He formed a rock band in high school as a vocalist, began playing guitar and harmonica; joined the U.S. Navy; attended college in L.A. but moved to San Francisco and formed the Fish with guitarist Barry Melton, David Cohen and 'Chicken' Hirsch; appeared in coffee houses etc. His first record was his stage opener 'I Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag' '65, included in the music magazine Rag Baby published by McDonald and Ed Denson, a former Sing Out! editor who managed the group and landed a Vanguard record deal in 1966.

Their savage, often hilarious pro-nonsense anti-war act was preserved on LPs Electric Music For Mind And Body '67 (including 'Not So Sweet Lorraine'), I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die and Together '68, Here We Go Again '69 (rock critics griped because the eclectic LP included members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, the Count Basie band and the Oakland Symphony Orchestra). They were famous for the F-U-C-K cheer: 'Gimme an F! ... Gimme a U!...' and for lyrics like 'Be the first family on your block/To have your boy come home in a box!' They toured Europe late '67 and were scheduled to play in Chicago during the Democratic national convention in '68, but Joe cancelled because he could smell violence and could not accept responsibility for anyone getting hurt. He was not really a protester but a conservative who could think; his famous quote was 'the most revolutionary thing you can do in this country is change your mind'. The Fish played at the Woodstock Festival '69 and toured Europe again; C.J. Fish (live from the tour) was issued '70.

The Fish disbanded '70; McDonald and Melton formed a lineup to appear in film Zacharia '71 (a satirical rock western written by avant-garde comedy outfit Firesign Theatre, whose script was garbled in the filming). He wrote and performed music for Danish film Quiet Days In Clichy based on Henry Miller, appeared in Chilean film Què Haser, toured with a group called All Stars including women '73, wrote anti-sexism songs as well as 'Save The Whales' '70s, performed on behalf of veterans' rights '82. His solo albums include Incredible! Live!, Thinking Of Woody, Tonight I'm Singing Just For You (a country album made in Nashville), Hold On--It's Coming, War War War (based on WWI poems of Robert W. Service, Rhymes Of A Red Cross Man) were all issued early '70s. Paradise With An Ocean View '75 included 'Breakfast For Two', Rock And Roll Music From The Planet Earth '78 included 'Bring Back The Sixties, Man', Reunion (with the Fish) were all on Fantasy. Later albums were Carry On on Shanachie, Superstitious Blues on Rykodisc, Child's Play on Rag Baby, reissues and newer albums Into The Fray, Peace On Earth (with Maria Muldaur, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir etc) and Vietnam Experience on One Way. Melton made solo Bright Sun Is Shining '72 on Vanguard, others.