- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

BANGKOK — American singer Country Joe McDonald, whose satirical “Fixin’ to Die” anthem condemned the U.S. war in Vietnam, said he will not go to Hanoi to receive a World Peace Music Award and warned that Washington cannot win the guerrilla wars in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“As a hippie protest songwriter, I could not exist in Vietnam today,” said Mr. McDonald, lead singer of the psychedelic band Country Joe and the Fish.

“Communism tends to be totalitarian, and I am not supportive of that,” Mr. McDonald said while performing in Britain recently.

“My parents were American Communists for some time, but they left the party because of a lack of democratic positions by the party.”

The second annual World Peace Music Awards will honor Mr. McDonald along with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Vietnam’s late Trinh Cong Son as “Life of Peace” singers on June 22.

“My understanding is that the government is not giving me the award at all. The country is just renting space to the World Peace Music Awards, whoever that might be, to put on a show,” Mr. McDonald said.

“It was explained that it was a benefit show, but it was not clear who the benefit was for,” he said.

“I found out that none of the other groups [or] acts being honored were going to be there,” he said. “But, of course, it is an honor to be honored.”

The snazzy chorus of Country Joe and the Fish’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” reflected the mood of many Americans with its ricocheting rhyme: “One, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn. Next stop is Vietnam.”

“That is the song I am best known for,” Mr. McDonald said.

“For many [U.S.] soldiers in Vietnam, including those in Vietnamese prison camps, it served as a morale booster. For some in the United States, it served as a vehicle to change their minds from pro-war to antiwar.

“For some, it confirmed that I was a traitor to the cause of the Vietnam War,” he said. “I [still] sing it the same, out of loyalty to those who fought the war and suffered the wounds of that war,” he said.

“I also find it interesting that Matt Taylor [a World Peace Music Awards promoter] had to run the lyrics by the Vietnamese government for approval, and that the approval was given.”

Mr. McDonald was born in Washington, D.C., in 1942, grew up in El Monte, Calif., and wrote the song in 1965 after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy.

Country Joe and the Fish immortalized the song on their second album and at countless performances, including the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

In 1970, at the “Chicago Seven” conspiracy trial, Mr. McDonald sang the chorus while testifying under oath, despite the judge’s admonition: “No, no, no, Mr. Witness. No singing.”

When Mr. McDonald continued, the court’s marshal put his hand on Mr. McDonald’s chin to force his mouth shut.

The judge then relented and allowed him to “recite” the song.

So Mr. McDonald spoke the full lyrics, which conclude by inviting America’s parents to “be the first one on your block to have your boy come home in a box.”

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.

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