Universal Soldier


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 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 Labau?
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 an end to war.

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Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch, 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist. Initially labelled as an imitator of Bob Dylan, Donovan quickly developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music (notably calypso). He has variously lived in Scotland, London, California and Ireland, and currently lives with his family in County Cork in Ireland. 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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    "Universal Soldier Lyrics." Lyrics.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 27 Feb. 2024. <https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/6759259/Donovan/Universal+Soldier>.

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    Universal Soldier

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    Top Hot 100 Songs 1965

    Billboard #53

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