Universal Soldier (song)

Australian soldiers in World War I

ANZAC day is approaching (April 25) here in Australia and I am currently reading a memoir of an Australian soldier who went to Gallipoli and survived to tell the story of this failed military campaign.

I was thinking about popular anti-war songs and Universal Soldier (sung by Donovan) came to mind. I first heard this song in the late 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War.

Universal Soldier was written by a Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie but the song was popularised by Donovan. In this article I share the lyrics and a video of war images set to the music.

Universal Soldier

In the six verses of the song, a soldier of different heights, ages, religious and political backgrounds is depicted, fighting in different times, for different countries (starting with Canada, where Buffy Sainte-Marie comes from), and with different motives, always thinking that he is fighting for peace but never realizing he is part of the problem.

Wikipedia article

He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
And he knows he shouldn’t kill
And he knows he always will
Kill you for me my friend, and me for you

And he’s fighting for Canada
He’s fighting for France
He’s fighting for the USA
And he’s fighting for the Russians
And he’s fighting for Japan
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way

And he’s fighting for Democracy
He’s fighting for the Reds
He says it’s for the peace of all
He’s the one who must decide
Who’s to live and who’s to die
And he never sees the writing on the wall

But without him
How would Hitler have condemned him at Libau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He’s the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war
And without him all this killing can’t go on

He’s the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from here and there and you and me
And brothers can’t you see
This is not the way we put the end to war

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