Country Joe McDonald achieved perhaps his greatest moment of fame at the
1969 Woodstock festival, when he led the audience in a rendition of his
"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
distinctive, politically charged psychedelic rock in the years before the
Joe McDonald, named after Russian leader Joseph Stalin by his leftist parents,
in Washington, D.C., 57 New Year's Days ago. The liberal McDonald wrote his
"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,
write protest songs. He made his first record, The Goodbye Blues, in
soon joined the Berkeley String Quartet and the Instant Action Jug Band, which
guitarist Barry Melton.
In 1965, Melton and McDonald formed Country Joe and the Fish (the band at its
also included drummer Chicken Hirsch, guitarist/keyboardist David Cohen and
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,
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-*-*-*
had appeared on earlier EPs by the group. The album also contained a Janis
tribute, titled "Janis."
Country Joe and the Fish played at the Monterey Pop Festival and were shown in
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
became less frequent. It broke up in 1970.
After writing soundtracks for a few small films, McDonald performed as a solo
sometimes with Melton. McDonald also has recorded quite a few solos LPs,
1971's War, War, War. During a 1973 tour of Europe, he sat on a stove and
be hospitalized for a few months.
The Fish re-formed for Reunion (1977), but neither the LP nor the tour
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
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
sound vignettes from our life today, like the 1967 LP."
Other birthdays: Morgan Fisher (Mott the Hoople), 49; and Grandmaster Flash, 41.