Barry McGuire: “Eve of Destruction” (1965)




Written by P. F. Sloan and released by Barry McGuire in 1965, Eve of Destruction is one of the best-known protest songs of the Cold War era. Through its foreboding lyrics and McGuire’s gravelly vocals, Eve of Destruction warns of escalating violence and an imminent nuclear holocaust. Its lyrics also scold Americans for their hypocrisy: for conscripting those too young to vote, and for criticising the hatred in communist countries while they still wrestled with domestic racism. Eve of Destruction received plenty of radio airplay and, in September 1965, reached number one on the US singles chart. Its provocative lyrics sparked a great deal of political commentary, as well as several musical responses. The best known of these was Dawn of Correction, released by vocal trio The Spokesmen in late 1965.



The eastern world it is explodin’
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin’
But you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
Can’t you see the fears that I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you boy
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’
I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’
You can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation
A handful of Senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me over and over and over again my friend
Ah you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
You may leave here, for four days in space
but when you return, it’s the same old place

The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next-door-neighbour, but don’t forget to say grace
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
No no you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.


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