Country Joe McDonald

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Country Joe McDonald
Countryjoe 79 crop.jpg
McDonald performing at Parr Meadows 1979
Background information
Birth nameJoseph Allen McDonald
Also known asCountry Joe
Born (1942-01-01) January 1, 1942 (age 80)
Washington, D.C.
Genres Alternative country, country, bluegrass, country rock, folk, psychedelic rock, acid rock
Occupation(s)Musician, political activist
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar
Years active1959–present
Labels Vanguard Records, One Way Records, Fantasy Records, Rykodisc, Shanachie Records, Rag Baby Records
Website countryjoe.com

Joseph Allen "Country Joe" McDonald (born January 1, 1942) [1] is an American musician who was the lead singer of the 1960s psychedelic rock group Country Joe and the Fish. [2]

Contents

Early life and early career

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. [3] 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. [2] 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. [4] [5] [6] In their youth, both were Communist Party members and named their son after Joseph Stalin, before renouncing the cause. [7]

Music career

Country Joe McDonald (Kralingen, 1970) CountryJoeMcDonaldKralingen1970.jpg
Country Joe McDonald (Kralingen, 1970)

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.

"Legendary Artists: Sounds of San Francisco" at an Audio Engineering Society convention in 2012. Left to right: Mario Cipollina, Peter Albin, Joel Selvin, McDonald SF Sounds - AES Historical session 2012.jpg
"Legendary Artists: Sounds of San Francisco" at an Audio Engineering Society convention in 2012. Left to right: Mario Cipollina, Peter Albin, Joel Selvin, McDonald

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?") [8] 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. [9] 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. [10] 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. [10] 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. [11]

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." [12]

McDonald at the LBJ Library in 2016 DIG13875 jjg-062.jpg
McDonald at the LBJ Library in 2016

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. [13]

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.

Personal life

McDonald was married to Kathe Werum from 1963 to 1966 and married Robin Menken a year after his divorce from Werum. [14] 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, [15] managed Johnny Depp's Viper Room nightclub and the alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins in the 1990s, [16] [17] and wrote for Details , Elle , LA Weekly and Harper's Bazaar magazines in the 1990s and 2000s. [16] Seven was the subject of and inspiration behind the song "Silver and Gold". [14] 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". [8] [18]

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. [19]

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. [14]

McDonald lives in Berkeley, California. [20]

Discography

For discography of Country Joe and the Fish, see that entry

Filmography

Actor

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Country Joe and the Fish</span> American psychedelic rock band

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.

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<i>Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More</i> 1970 live album by various artists

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<i>I-Feel-Like-Im-Fixin-to-Die</i> 1967 studio album by Country Joe and the Fish

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".

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"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.

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References

  1. Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1558. ISBN   0-85112-939-0.
  2. 1 2 Richard Brenneman, "Country Joe McDonald Revives Anti-War Anthem" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine , Berkeley Daily Planet , April 16, 2004, accessed July 18, 2007.
  3. "Patriots: the Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides", Christian G. Appy, p. 196.
  4. "The Jewish Standard". Jstandard.com. August 14, 2009. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  5. "Country Joe McDonald, The Country Joe Band". Country Joe's Place. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  6. "meltoneightmiles". Cjfishlegacy.com. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  7. "Patriots: the Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides", Christian G. Appy, pp. 195–196.
  8. 1 2 Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 42 – The Acid Test: Psychedelics and a sub-culture emerge in San Francisco. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles . University of North Texas Libraries.
  9. "Patriots: the Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides", Christian G. Appy, p. 199.
  10. 1 2 Country Joe McDonald, "That Notorious Cheer", accessed October 10, 2007.
  11. cited in Jacques Attali's Noise: The Political Economy of Music citing Pop-music/Rock by Philippe Daufouy and Jean-Pierre Sarton (Champ Libre, 1972).
  12. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: M". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies . Ticknor & Fields. ISBN   089919026X . Retrieved March 7, 2019 via robertchristgau.com.
  13. The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, October 19, 2005.
  14. 1 2 3 Cabral, Ron (March 31, 2004). Country Joe and Me. AuthorHouse. ISBN   978-1-4184-0642-4.
  15. "Seven McDonald". IMDb.
  16. 1 2 "Seven McDonald". LinkedIn.
  17. "Bio". Read24seven.com. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  18. "Country Joe McDonald, An Autobiography". countryjoe.com.
  19. "'Blossom' Reunion ft Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Jenna von Oÿ & More! (2017) | PEOPLE". YouTube .
  20. "Fixin' to Retire". Mercury News. July 15, 2017. Retrieved August 27, 2021.
  21. Answers.com, Discography
  22. Country Joe McDonald at AllMusic: Discography
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