Donovan: “Universal Soldier” (1965)


Universal Soldier is an anti-war song, written by Canadian songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and recorded by Donovan in 1965. It is unusual in that it does not target a specific war or criticise governments, but instead lays the blame for war on ordinary people who volunteer for military service:

Lyrics

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 could Hitler have condemned them 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.