Country Joe McDonald

Country Joe McDonald achieved perhaps his greatest moment of fame at the

historic,

1969 Woodstock festival, when he led the audience in a rendition of his

signature song,

"Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag," complete with the notorious "Fish Cheer."

But Country Joe and his band, Country Joe and the Fish, also made a few albums

of

distinctive, politically charged psychedelic rock in the years before the

massive

countercultural festival.

Joe McDonald, named after Russian leader Joseph Stalin by his leftist parents,

was born

in Washington, D.C., 57 New Year's Days ago. The liberal McDonald wrote his

first song,

"I Seen a Rocket," for a friend's campaign to be elected high-school president.

After a stint in the navy and some time in college, McDonald moved to Berkeley,

Calif., to

write protest songs. He made his first record, The Goodbye Blues, in

1964. He

soon joined the Berkeley String Quartet and the Instant Action Jug Band, which

included

guitarist Barry Melton.

In 1965, Melton and McDonald formed Country Joe and the Fish (the band at its

peak

also included drummer Chicken Hirsch, guitarist/keyboardist David Cohen and

bassist

Bruce Barthol) in San Francisco. At first, they played jug-band music, but

within a year,

they went electric. Electric Music for the Mind and Body, issued in 1967,

was

acclaimed by critics. The same year's I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die

brought the band

notoriety for the track "Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag," a satirical tune

about the Vietnam

War. The album's "The Fish Cheer" was a re-titled version of the "F-*-*-*

Cheer," which

had appeared on earlier EPs by the group. The album also contained a Janis

Joplin

tribute, titled "Janis."

Country Joe and the Fish played at the Monterey Pop Festival and were shown in

the

film made of the event. At the Woodstock festival, Country Joe appeared solo.

By 1969, following an arrest in Massachusetts for lewdness, the band's

appearances

became less frequent. It broke up in 1970.

After writing soundtracks for a few small films, McDonald performed as a solo

act and

sometimes with Melton. McDonald also has recorded quite a few solos LPs,

including

1971's War, War, War. During a 1973 tour of Europe, he sat on a stove and

had to

be hospitalized for a few months.

The Fish re-formed for Reunion (1977), but neither the LP nor the tour

was

successful. In the '80s, McDonald released LPs on his Rag Baby record label.

McDonald continues to record and perform today. He is now working on an album to

be

titled WWW.COUNTRYJOE.COM with Stephen Barsotti, the leader of McDonald's

current live band. McDonald said on his website of the same name that the LP

will be an

attempt to recreate the Fish's debut LP "for the 21st Century."

"The material will cover 30 years," McDonald said. "The CD will feature

atmospheres and

sound vignettes from our life today, like the 1967 LP."

Other birthdays: Morgan Fisher (Mott the Hoople), 49; and Grandmaster Flash, 41.