A Bit Like You And Me Radio

November 09, 2016

Country Joe and the Fish - Who Am I (1967)

In mid-1965, the publisher of the magazine Et Tu Brute, Country Joe McDonald, wanted to make a “talking issue” of his political, underground magazine. He recruited the talents of four other musicians, including Barry “The Fish” Melton, who had previously been in The Instant Jug Band with McDonald. Together, the outfit self-produced one-hundred copies of Talking Issue #1. It became popular enough that the duo of McDonald and Melton was able to pick up gigs performing it live at the ubiquitous coffee houses found throughout Berkeley, California.

By 1966, the duo expanded to a six-piece ensemble, relocated to San Francisco, and self-produced their second EP, the psychedelic Country Joe and the Fish, to great local acclaim. By December 1966, the group’s popularity had grown so vast, that they were signed to Vanguard Records, who they wound up releasing five albums for through 1970 (and one more album, Reunion, with Fantasy Records in 1977).

Alongside some of their San Francisco contemporaries, Country Joe and the Fish were at the forefront of the 1960s “hippie” ideologies: encouraging free-love, promoting the responsible use of LSD, and connecting your mind and spirit to nature.

The song heard below was first seen on I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die, the band’s second album for Vanguard, released in 1967. It was also re-released as the A-Side of a single in 1968, backed with “Thursday.” Written by Country Joe McDonald, the song is a poignant, existential outpouring of McDonald’s thoughts at the time it was written, presumably sometime in early 1967.

album art

Country Joe and the Fish - Who Am I (1967)

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Lyrics:

Who am I
To stand and wonder- to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away?
Who am I?

There were some things that I loved one time
But the dreams are gone I thought were mine
And the hidden tears that once could fall
Now burn inside at the thought of all
The years of waste, the years of crime
Passions of a heart so blind
To think that, but even still
As I stand exposed, the feelings are felt
And I cry into the echo of my loneliness

Who am I
To stand and wonder- to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away?
Who am I?

What a nothing I've made of life
The empty words, the coward's plight
To be pushed and passed from hand to hand
Never daring to speak, never daring to stand
And the emptiness of my family's eyes
Reminds me over and over of lies
And promises and deeds undone
And now, again, I want to run
But now there is nowhere to run to

Who am I
To stand and wonder- to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away?
Who am I?

And now, my friend, we meet again
And we shall see which one will bend
Under the strain of Death's golden eyes
Which one of us shall win the prize
To live and which one will die
'tis I, my friend, yes 'tis I
Shall kill to live again and again
To clutch the throat of sweet revenge
For life is here only for the taking

Who am I
To stand and wonder- to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away?
Who am I?

Who am I?

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