One of my favorite subjects for this podcast, the Vietnam Veteran News, is the musicians and their music of the era. According to the great humanities lecturer, Dr. Funkhouser, formerly of the University of Florida, music is an indescribable and mysterious thing that has an enduring effect on its listeners.
In this episode we will take a look at one of those Vietnam Era performers who is still making a difference today. His name is Joe McDonald and he was recently featured in a story found in The Boston Globe website titled: Country Joe McDonald, still bearing witness that was submitted by Matthew Guerrieri.
McDonald first saw the light of day in Washington, DC. His parents who were both members of the Communist Party relocated to California and young Joe grew up in El Monte. Before his parents became disillusioned with the Communist cause they named their son after Joseph Stalin, one of the most hated mass murderers in history. Young Joe joined the US Navy at the age of 17, served three years and then settled down in the Berkeley area to join the protest movement.
He formed up Country Joe and the Fish with fellow guitarist Barry Melton. Their biggest hit was “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” but he is best known to members of the Vietnam Era for his Vietnam War Song. The band became one of the more exploratory psychedelic acts of the late 1960s and some describe McDonald as one of the era’s most dedicated political conscience. McDonald saw his music as an alarm rather than a solution.
In the Mid 1970’s the band broke up and McDonald continued a solo career in promoting assorted causes. One cause was a renewed association with Vietnam Veterans with a particular on the contributions of military nurses. He became an expert on Florence Nightingale and the history of nursing. That led to the creation of a one-man show about military nurses.
Joe McDonald remains relevant with his causes to this very day.