Poetry is a powerful medium especially when combined with music. Add visuals and it becomes exponentially more powerful, enveloping an array of human senses and emotions. Place all that in historical context, combine with current affairs, and it can become timeless.
In 1965 I became part of the United States military. The war in Vietnam was raging and people were dying by the thousands. Destruction, devastation, and despair abounded. I lost an uncle, a number of friends and high school classmates to that despicable endeavor. At home the race riots, peace demonstrations, and a less-than-honorable group of elected officials and military leaders laid bare the most vile elements of human nature.
The previous year, 1964, a nineteen-year-old songwriter named P. F. Sloan was inspired to compose and record a song as relevant today as it was then. That song is “Eve Of Destruction.” It has been covered by many artists, including Bob Dylan and The Turtles, but my favorite version was performed by Barry McGuire. I’ve included links to two video versions in this post—one covers current events, the second the Vietnam War Era.
One final thing. This post deviates in two ways from my normal presentations. First, it departs from my long-standing rule of not discussing politics; and two, you are welcome to comment as always but I may or may not respond and I may or may not allow your comments for this particular post. With those caveats, click here for Barry McGuire in the 2016 video version of “Eve Of Destruction.”
For historical context, click here to play the 1965 version.
While “Eve of Destruction” was a protest song. As any number of others, it was banned from airplay in a lot of places, not unlike the Dixie Chicks vs Bush II thirty-five years later. It was also purposely over dramatized and over produced to step outside the folkie six string and harmonica realm in which it was conceived so that it would appeal to a broader audience. As it was written for an ex Christy Minstrel, not as the bombastic anthem it became.
Regardless of what politicians do, who they are, what they say…Ultimately WE are responsible for how we treat one another, how we behave, how we make the planet a better place. Politicians can change laws, they can’t change hearts or minds. THAT is the job of music and poetry. It is not the job of music and poetry to become co-conspirators in fear mongering or justification or even as “I told ya so.” It is their job to make us see, think, respond and change what’s inhumane.
So instead of concentrating on the gloom and doom and fostering even more dread and fear, I point to another Sloane and Barri line, one of my favorites of the entire AM radio era. In one of their classic drive-thru hand holding with your baby cruisers they remind us all that with just “A little ray of sunshine, and a little of soul, add just a touch of magic…” and we could all have the greatest thing since rock n roll. That is music and words. Take what we have, ourselves, and make better people, and a better world. Screw the politicians.
McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin’ fire in L.A …
Thanks for the song, Jack. And thank you for your service. I hope the new administration recognizes above all that real lives are at stake.
Good post, Jack. The point is obvious. —- Suzanne
It’s hard not to ‘get political’ after recent events. It affects us all, after all. But yes, I keep it away from my blog, too. We need somewhere to go where we can escape from it, don’t we?
Agree, Ali. Sadly, humans have difficulty resisting or escaping fear and hatred.
Great song, Jack. I watched the videos, sad but excellent images in both.