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Sounds of The Sixties: Update–Country Joe McDonald is fixin’ to retire

MarinIJ – By Paul Liberatore/Marin Independent Journal – 07/13/17
Photo: Musician and veteran Country Joe McDonald. (Photo by Judith Scherr).

Country Joe McDonald, whose 1967 anti-Vietnam War protest song “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die” made him a voice of his generation, is fixin’ to retire.

The 75-year-old rock legend figures he’s played something like 3,000 gigs in a career spanning more than 50 years. His July 28 show at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley will be one of his last. He’ll certainly never play on this side of the bridge again.

“I’ve had a great career,” he says, speaking from his home in Berkeley. “I’ve done 25 albums of original material. I’ve performed at all the major events of my generation. I’ve highlighted things that need to be thought about. I’ve made some people happy with my music. I’ve made myself happy with it. And I’ve been a part of history.”

Photo: Country Joe McDonald at Monterey Pop Festival 1967.

For his swan song, he won’t be limping off into some dayglow sunset. With a crack five-piece band behind him, he’s going out strong, realizing a long-held dream of performing his 1967 Country Joe and the Fish Vanguard Records debut, “Electric Music for the Mind and Body,” one of the first psychedelic rock albums to come out of San Francisco.

Wearing a hard hat and face paint, McDonald played songs from the album with the Fish Band at the fabled Monterey Pop Festival in the Summer of Love. Two years later, he launched his solo career at Woodstock. By then he was famous for his notorious “Fish Cheer” (“Gimme an F!”). At the same time, his band, co-founded with Barry Melton, was starting to shatter under the unrelenting pressure of constant touring and recording.


“We had to make an album every six months,” he recalls. “They worked us so hard that by the time of Woodstock we were starting to fall apart from exhaustion.”

As a solo act, McDonald no longer performed songs from his vaunted debut album, hailed as one of the most important and enduring documents of the psychedelic era.

“They’re psychedelic rock ’n’ roll songs that could only be played by Country Joe and the Fish, but that band refused to get together and play,” he recalls. “That was one of the sad things about my career that I felt bad about, that I was never able to get the band together to play those songs again, so they just disappeared.”

Then, out of the blue, Alec Palao of Ace Records, a British independent, recently produced a special CD package of the first two Country Joe albums, earning a Grammy nomination. A bassist and self-described “full-time rock ’n’ roll fanatic,” Palao put together a five-piece band so McDonald could perform live renditions of the songs on “Electric Music,” including “Section 43,” “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine,” “Flying High” and “Grace,” his love letter to the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick.

“I hadn’t played some of those songs in 40 years, so hearing that Country Joe and the Fish music after all that time was pretty amazing,” he says. “They don’t play it exactly like Country Joe and the Fish, but they play it really good. In some cases better. It’s like a dream come true.”

At the same time, McDonald is working with the Berkeley Historical Society on a new exhibit, “Soundtrack to the 60s: The Berkeley Music Scene,” that opens in October at the Berkeley Museum. And he’s exiting the scene with a new album, “50,” celebrating his five-decade-long career. He swears it’s his last. An eclectic collection of original songs, its overall theme of time passing is reflected in the tracks “Round and Round” and “Where Did the Time Go?,” the latter with the poignant lyric: “Where oh where did the time go?/Somebody tell me I want to know/We were so young and now we’re so old.”

“I’m not what I used to be physically, but I’m in pretty damn good health for my age,” he says. “And I’ve survived when many of my friends haven’t survived.”

Photo: Joe McDonald in Berkeley, California.

At one point in our interview, I asked him if he has any regrets as his performing career winds down? Not really, he said. He told me that he’s looking forward to getting to know his hometown and spending time with his wife, his five kids and his grandchildren, sounding like someone who’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish in the music business, not the world’s easiest or most secure line of work. For a time in his prime, he even dated rock goddess Janis Joplin.

Read entire article here

Country Joe’s Anti Vietnam War Song Woodstock (‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die’)

ZooSolo MoHambone – Published on Apr 13, 2009

Woodstock 1969. The protesters were right all along ! Video source: www.youtube.com

Posted By Teri Perticone


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