Country Joe McDonald
|Birth name||Joseph Allen McDonald|
|Also known as||Country Joe|
|Born||January 1, 1942|
|Genres||Alternative country, country, bluegrass, country rock, folk, psychedelic rock, acid rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, political activist|
|Labels||Vanguard Records, One Way Records, Fantasy Records, Rykodisc, Shanachie Records, Rag Baby Records|
Joseph Allen "Country Joe" McDonald (born January 1, 1942)is an American musician who was the lead singer of the 1960s psychedelic rock group Country Joe and the Fish.
McDonald was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in El Monte, California, where he was student conductor and president of his high school marching band.At the age of 17, he enlisted in the United States Navy for three years and was stationed in Japan. After his enlistment, he attended Los Angeles City College for a year. In the early 1960s, he began busking on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. His father, Worden McDonald, from Oklahoma, was of Scottish Presbyterian heritage (the son of a minister) and worked for a telephone company. His mother, Florence Plotnick, was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and served for many years on the Berkeley City Council. In their youth, both were Communist Party members and named their son after Joseph Stalin, before renouncing the cause.
McDonald has recorded 33 albums and has written hundreds of songs over a career spanning 60 years. In 1965, he and Barry Melton co-founded Country Joe & the Fish which became a pioneer psychedelic rock band with their eclectic performances at the Avalon Ballroom, the Fillmore Auditorium, the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and both the 1969 original and 1979 reunion Woodstock Festivals.
Their best-known song is his "The "Fish" Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" (1965), a black comedy novelty song about the Vietnam War, whose familiar chorus ("One, two, three, what are we fighting for?")is well known to the Woodstock generation and Vietnam veterans of the 1960s and '70s. McDonald wrote the song in about 20 minutes for an anti-Vietnam War play. The "Fish Cheer" was the band performing a call-and-response with the audience, spelling the word "fish", followed by Country Joe yelling, "What's that spell?" twice, with the audience responding, and then, the third time, "What's that spell?", followed immediately by the song. The "Fish Cheer" evolved into the "Fuck Cheer" after the Berkeley free speech movement. The cheer was on the original recording of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag", being played right before the song on the LP of the same name. The cheer became popular and the crowd would spell out F-I-S-H when the band performed live. During the summer of 1968 the band played on the Schaefer Music Festival tour. Gary "Chicken" Hirsh suggested before one of the shows to spell the word "fuck" instead of "fish". Although the crowd loved it, the management of the Schaefer Beer Festival did not and kicked the band off the tour for life. The Ed Sullivan Show then 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. The modified cheer continued at most of the band's live shows throughout the years, including Woodstock and elsewhere. In Worcester, Massachusetts, McDonald was arrested for obscenity and fined $500 for uttering "fuck" in public.
McDonald subsequently embarked on a solo career. One of his solo albums, the 1973 Vanguard LP Paris Sessions, was reviewed by Robert Christgau in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981), in which he said: "Amazing. The man (repeat: man) has written feminist songs that are both catchy and sensible. Despite the real/honest prison poem and the silly, outdated record fan routines, his best in about five years."
In 2003 McDonald was sued for copyright infringement over his signature song, specifically the "One, two, three, what are we fighting for?" chorus part, as derived from the 1926 early jazz classic "Muskrat Ramble", co-written by Kid Ory. The suit was brought by Ory's daughter Babette, who held the copyright at the time. Since decades had already passed from the time McDonald composed his song in 1965, Ory based her suit on a new version of it recorded by McDonald in 1999. The court, however, upheld McDonald's laches defense, noting that Ory and her father were aware of the original version of the song, with the same questionable section, for some three decades without bringing a suit. In 2006, Ory was ordered to pay McDonald $395,000 for attorney fees and had to sell her copyrights to do so.
In 2004, McDonald regrouped with three of the original members of Country Joe and the Fish (Bruce Barthol, David Bennett Cohen, and Gary "Chicken" Hirsh) and they toured the United States and the United Kingdom as the "Country Joe Band".
In 2005, McDonald joined a larger protest against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget cuts at the California State Capitol Building. Later in 2005, political commentator Bill O'Reilly compared McDonald to Cuban President Fidel Castro, remarking on McDonald's involvement in Cindy Sheehan's protests against the Iraq War.
In 2015, McDonald (with assistance from Alec Palao), formed The Electric Music Band; the intention of the group was to perform the early psychedelic material of the early career of Country Joe And The Fish. The band has performed Electric Music For The Mind And Body in its entirety, and band members include Palao, the Rain Parade's Matt Piucci and Derek See of the Chocolate Watchband.
In 2017, McDonald released an album on his own Rag Baby label entitled 50.
In 2019, Mc Donald was scheduled to play on Woodstock's 50th Anniversary festival, which was cancelled after negotiations between partners failed.
McDonald was married to Kathe Werum from 1963 to 1966 and married Robin Menken a year after his divorce from Werum.In 1968, Menken gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Seven Anne McDonald, in San Francisco. Seven had a career as a TV child actor in the late 1970s and early 1980s, managed Johnny Depp's Viper Room nightclub and the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins in the 1990s, and wrote for Details , Elle , LA Weekly and Harper's Bazaar magazines in the 1990s and 2000s. Seven was the subject of and inspiration behind the song "Silver and Gold". McDonald has noted that his girlfriend at the time, Janis Joplin, showed much anger for breaking up with her to be with Menken but asked him to write a song about her; the result was "Janis".
Seven's name was the inspiration behind the character Six on Blossom, cited by Don Reo on PeopleTV special Blossom Cast Reunion aired 2017, timestamp 10:07-10:33. Don's son went to school with Seven, Don asked his son if she would be cool with him naming a character Seven, Seven said no, so it was either Six or Eight.
McDonald has four other children, Devin (b. 1976) and Tara (b. 1980) from his marriage to Janice Taylor, and Emily (b. 1988) and Ryan (b. 1991) from his marriage to Kathy Wright.
McDonald lives in Berkeley, California.
For discography of Country Joe and the Fish, see that entry
Country Joe and the Fish was an American psychedelic rock band formed in Berkeley, California, in 1965. The band was among the influential groups in the San Francisco music scene during the mid- to late 1960s. Much of the band's music was written by founding members Country Joe McDonald and Barry "The Fish" Melton, with lyrics pointedly addressing issues of importance to the counterculture, such as anti-war protests, free love, and recreational drug use. Through a combination of psychedelia and electronic music, the band's sound was marked by innovative guitar melodies and distorted organ-driven instrumentals which were significant to the development of acid rock.
Claire Burch was an American author, filmmaker and poet.
Electric Music for the Mind and Body is Country Joe and the Fish's debut album. Released in May 1967 on the Vanguard label, it was one of the first psychedelic albums to come out of San Francisco.
Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More is a live album of selected performances from the 1969 Woodstock counterculture festival officially known as "The Woodstock Music & Art Fair". The album was compiled & produced by Eric Blackstead. Originally released on Atlantic Records' Cotillion label as a triple album on May 11, 1970, it was re-released as a 4 CD box by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs in 1986 followed by a two-CD set released by Atlantic in 1987. Atlantic re-issued the two-CD set in 1994 correcting a few mastering errors found on their 1987 release. Veteran producer Eddie Kramer along with Lee Osbourne were the sound engineers during the three-day event.
I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die is the second studio album by the influential San Francisco psychedelic rock band, Country Joe and the Fish, released in 1967. Recordings took place in Vanguard studios in 71 West 23rd Street, New York City. The title track remains one of the most popular Vietnam protest songs from the 1960s and originally appeared on a 1965 7" EP titled Rag Baby: Songs of Opposition. On the album, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" appears following "The Fish Cheer", which at concerts became a Country Joe standard. At Woodstock, Joe had the crowd yell F-U-C-K instead of F-I-S-H. Another musical highlight is the track "Janis" written for McDonald's then-girlfriend Janis Joplin. It is the second song written for a female musician for their albums, the other being "Grace". Two singles were released in the wake of the album. These include "Janis"/"Janis (instrumental)" and "Who Am I"/"Thursday".
"I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" is a song by the American psychedelic rock band Country Joe and the Fish, written by Country Joe McDonald, and first released as the opening track on the extended play Rag Baby Talking Issue No. 1, in October 1965. "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag"'s dark humor and satire made it one of the most recognized protest songs against the Vietnam War. Critics cite the composition as a classic of the counterculture era.
Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965–1970 is the fourth Nuggets box set released by Rhino Records. It was released in 2007 and packaged as an 8 1/2 x 11" 120 page hardcover book, the first 73 pages of which were made up mostly of vintage photographs. The compilation focuses on San Francisco Sound bands. Its title is derived from the first line of "Get Together," two versions of which open and close the four-disc set.
David Bennett Cohen is an American musician best known as the original keyboardist and one of the guitar players for the late-1960s psychedelic rock and blues band Country Joe and the Fish.
Thinking of Woody Guthrie was released in 1969 by Vanguard Records and is the debut solo album of Country Joe McDonald, best known for his work with Country Joe & the Fish. It was a different approach by McDonald to release a folk music and country album in the style of Woody Guthrie. Prior to this solo release, he was known to make albums in a psychedelic style with his band. The album was a tribute to the work of Woody Guthrie, a country and folk musician who died two years earlier. All of the tracks on the album were either composed or performed by Guthrie. McDonald was heavily influenced by Guthrie since he was a child. McDonald could recall his interest of Guthrie came first when his parents played Guthrie's first album, Dust Bowl Ballads. Even though McDonald has issued several albums in his career, he looks to this album as the piece he is most proud of.
"Muskrat Ramble" is a jazz composition written by Kid Ory in 1926. It was first recorded on February 26, 1926, by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, and became the group's most frequently recorded piece. It was paired on the flip side with another one of Armstrong's hits, "Heebie Jeebies." It was a prominent part of the Dixieland revival repertoire in the 1930s and 1940s, and was recorded by Bob Crosby, Roy Eldridge, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Muggsy Spanier, Chet Atkins, Lu Watters, the Andrews Sisters, Harry James, and Al Hirt, among others. It is considered a part of the jazz standard repertoire.
Reunion is the sixth studio album by the American psychedelic rock group Country Joe and the Fish, released in 1977. It constituted a reunion of the members of the 1967 band. It was produced by Sam Charters for Fantasy Records and recorded between January and April 1977. The music is not as psychedelic, and several tracks are country rock.
CJ Fish is the fifth album by the San Francisco psychedelic rock group, Country Joe and the Fish, released in May 1970 on the Vanguard label. It would be the first production with Tom Wilson and Country Joe & the Fish's last studio album for Vanguard Records. Recording took place at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, California.
Woodstock 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm is a 6-CD live box-set album of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York. Its release marked the 40th Anniversary of the festival.
Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music is a 4-CD live box-set album of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York. Its release marked the 25th anniversary of the festival. The box set contains tracks from Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, Woodstock 2, and numerous additional, previously unreleased performances from the festival as well as the stage announcements and crowd noises. Just prior to the box set's release, Atlantic Records released a much shorter 1-CD version entitled The Best of Woodstock. In 2019, Rhino Records issued a 38-CD box set called Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive which includes every musical performance as well as stage announcements and other ancillary material.
The Best of Woodstock is a 1-CD live compilation album of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York. Its release marked the 25th anniversary of the festival. It contains tracks which were already released on the original Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More album. Shortly after the album's release, Atlantic Records released a much longer 4-CD box set entitled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music, which contained tracks from the original album, Woodstock 2, and numerous additional, previously-unreleased performances from the festival, but not the stage announcements and crowd noises.
Here We Are Again is the fourth album by the psychedelic rock band Country Joe and the Fish. It was released in 1969 with the US catalog number Vanguard VSD 79299. It peaked on the Billboard 200 at number 48, and stayed on the charts for eleven weeks. Only Country Joe McDonald and Melton remained from the original lineup that began breaking up since the previous album. The past members would appear as guest musicians however.
The Life and Times of Country Joe and the Fish is a compilation album by the American psychedelic rock band Country Joe and the Fish and was released on Vanguard Records in September 1971. The album provides a summary of Country Joe and the Fish's history from their formation in 1965 to their disbandment in 1970, and also serves as a survey of their recording career during that span. Although the track listing is not in a specified chronological order, it does encompass a mixture of their most celebrated experimental and traditionally-structured compositions. All of the songs included on the original The Life and Times of Country Joe and the Fish album can all be found on the band's first five albums, Electric Music for the Mind and Body, I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die, Together, Here We Are Again, and CJ Fish.
The Serpent Power were an American psychedelic rock and folk rock group active in the 1960s.
Woodstock – Back to the Garden: 50th Anniversary Collection is a live album by various artists. It was recorded at the Woodstock music festival, which took place on August 15–18, 1969, in Bethel, New York. It includes 30 songs by 21 different musical artists, in order of performance, along with a number of stage announcements. It was released as a three-disc CD and as a five-disc LP on June 28, 2019.