May 02, 2012

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Universal Soldier (1964)

Born Beverly Sainte-Marie in 1941, this singer and songwriter was a part of the folk movement in the 1960s. As part Cree Indian, her songs (as well as her social activism) largely dealt with the indigenous people of the Americas. Secretly, much of her work was blacklisted by the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, which had been attempting to silence the protest movements of the time. Her songs have been covered by Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Donovan, Neil Diamond, and many others.

In 1963, this artist witnesses wounded soldiers coming home from Vietnam at a time when the United States government was denying any involvement in the conflict. Inspired by what she had seen, she wrote this song. It was released on her first album, titled It’s My Way!, released in 1964. It wasn’t a popular hit, but would later become one when it was covered by Donovan in 1965.

album art

Buffy Sainte-Marie - Universal Soldier (1964)

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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 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 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 the war
And without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
Really is to blame
But 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


  1. And here I have been all of these years thinking that it was Donovan who wrote the song!

    Good ole Buffy!

    1. You aren't alone! As far as I know, Donovan's version was the only successful one.

  2. My favourite version since I first heard it when I was 15. Love her voice, such emotion.

    1. Whenever I hear this song, I always imagine her singing at an establishment that doesn't appreciate her anti-war lyrics and boo her off of the stage. I have no idea why. Quite oppositely, I love the song as well as her singing performance!