Country Joe McDonald
One figure straddles the two polar events of the '60' -- Woodstock and the Vietnam War -- Country Joe McDonald. In fact, such emblematic proportions have obscured his own true talents, but McDonald has found a measure of peace with his own past. "This doesn't mean I'm happy about it," said McDonald, who was not only an anti-war protestor during the '60's but also a Vietnam era Navy veteran. "I remember the trips and I remember the demonstrations. I remember some of it with happiness and I remember some of it with sadness."
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After 31 albums and more than a quarter century in the public eye as a folksinger, Country Joe McDonald qualifies as one of the best known names from the '60's rock still performing. He spoofed his own Woodstock past in a recent Pepsi commercial that first aired during Super Bowl 1994 and he has seen himself caricatured in Steve Spielberg's kid's TV show "Animaniacs".
But McDonald also remains a thriving, working musician who travels the world and continues to sell records. His best-selling solo album, "Paradise With and Ocean View" (1975), will join his growing list of compact disc releases this year from Fantasy Records and his own new album, "Carry On", a remarkable return to his folk roots, will also be released later this year by his own Rag Baby Records, a label with an almost thirty year history.
McDonald released the first Country Joe and the Fish record, containing an agit-prop folk version of "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" on Rag Baby in October 1965, in time for the Vietnam Day Teach-In, a massive anti-war protest organized in Berkeley, California. Within months the nascent folk group had exchanged their acoustic instruments for electric, plugged in and were playing the burgeoning San Francisco psychedelic ballroom scene at the Avalon and Fillmore.
With the release of "Electric Music for Mind and Body", the band's 1967 Vanguard Records debut, Country Joe and the Fish joined the front ranks of the international psychedelic rock movement. The band's second album contained the rock version of "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag", one of the great anthems of the era. In August 1968, on the spur of the moment, the infamous "Fuck Cheer" was invented to introduce the song at a performance in Central Park's Wolman Rink. The following year, McDonald led an audience approaching a half-million at the Woodstock Arts and Music Festival in the cheer.
After five albums with the band, McDonald began his career as a solo artist in 1969 with a collection of Woody Guthrie songs. His solo recordings have spanned a broad range of styles and content; from his musical rendition of the World War I poems of Robert Service to a straight forward collection of country and western standards, from the 1985 double-record set, "Vietnam Experience", to the 1991 blues outing with guest guitarist Jerry Garcia, "Superstitious Blues."
"I like real", McDonald said. "I think it's dangerous, insulting and demeaning not to be real. I am Country Joe. I don't pretend to be Country Joe. I don't have a Country Joe suit in my closet."
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