Universal Soldier

Buffy Sainte-Marie

About Universal Soldier

"Universal Soldier" is a song written and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. The song was originally released on Sainte-Marie's debut album It's My Way! in 1964. "Universal Soldier" was not an immediate popular hit at the time of its release, but it did garner attention within the contemporary folk music community. It became a hit a year later when Donovan covered it, as did Glen Campbell. Sainte-Marie said of the song: "I wrote 'Universal Soldier' in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It's about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all."Sainte-Marie has said she approached writing the song from the perspective of a student writing an essay for a professor who didn't see eye-to-eye with her perspective, hoping to present him with a different point of view. 


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He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an athiest, 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
and 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 walls

But without him how would Hitler have 
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body 
as a weapon to a 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 him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war

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Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC (born February 20, 1941) is a Canadian Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her singing and writing repertoire includes subjects of love, war, religion, and mysticism. She recorded one country album, I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again, in Nashville, and her Academy Award-winning "Up Where We Belong" is considered "pure pop." more »

2 fans

Written by: Buffy Sainte-Marie

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

16 facts about this song

Songwriter and Original Singer
"Universal Soldier" was written and first recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for her debut album "It's My Way!" in 1964.
Donovan's Cover
After the song's release by Buffy, it was popularized by Scottish singer Donovan who released his cover version in 1965.
Themes and Message
The song is a protest against war, conveying a message about individual responsibility for war and how one has the power to stop it. The song describes the "universal soldier" who fights wherever the country tells them.
Misunderstanding about Song's Origin
For a long period, many people thought Donovan was the original writer of "Universal Soldier," but it was indeed written by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Glen Campbell's Version
In 1965, country singer Glen Campbell also recorded a cover version of "Universal Soldier.”
Billboard Chart Performance
Donovan's version of the song reached number 5 on the UK Singles Chart and number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Part of Anti-Vietnam War Movement
The song became part of the popular music response to the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War and became an anthem for the anti-Vietnam War movement.
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Journey
Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Cree songwriter, and educator, has been a leading figure in Native American music and activism for more than five decades.
Recognition for Buffy Sainte-Marie
Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier" was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005.
Inclusion in Films
"Universal Soldier" has been featured in numerous documentaries and films addressing war or peace themes.
Donovan’s Impact
Donovan, though not the original writer, played a key role in broadening the audience for this peace-oriented song during the 1960s folk revival.
Immortalized in Cover Versions
Over the years, "Universal Soldier" has been covered by numerous artists across various genres, further cementing its place in music history.
Controversial Ban
Some radio stations reportedly banned the song during the Vietnam War due to its anti-war message.
Cultural Icon of the 1960s
"Universal Soldier" stands as an icon of the 1960s counterculture and protest movements.
Additional Languages
The song was translated and performed in multiple languages, including French and German due to its global appeal.
Change in Lyrics
Donovan changed some of the lyrics in his cover version, but the anti-war message of the song remained consistent.

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