Ewan McColl: Ballad of Ho Chi Minh (1954)

Ewan McColl (1915-89) was a Scottish folk musician, poet and communist activist who became perhaps the best British protest singer of the 1960s. In 1954 McColl recorded The Ballad of Ho Chi Minh, an upbeat folk song that praised Ho for his leadership and devotion to the people of Vietnam. McColl was inspired by the Viet Minh victory at Dien Bien Phu and frustrated with Western propaganda that painted Ho Chi Minh as a nascent tyrant. According to McColl’s ballad, Ho is a leader who seeks to “drive invaders from his land” in order to secure “peace and freedom” for the Vietnamese people. McColl’s song became popular around the world, particularly in North Vietnam. It shows that not all Westerners interpreted the rise of the Viet Minh as an act of communist aggression.

Far away across the ocean,
Far beyond the sea’s eastern rim,
Lives a man who is father of the Indochinese people,
And his name it is Ho Chi Minh.
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh. Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh.

From Viet Bac to the Saigon Delta
From the mountains and plains below
Young and old workers, peasants and the toiling tenant farmers
Fight for freedom with Uncle Ho.
Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh.

Now Ho Chi Minh was a deep sea sailor
He served his time out on the seven seas
Work and hardship were part of his early education
Exploitation his A.B.C.

Now Ho Chi Minh came back from sailing
And he looked on on his native land
Saw the want and the hunger of the Indochinese people
Foreign soldiers on every hand.

Now Ho Chi Minh went to the mountains
And he trained a determined band
Heroes all, who had sworn to free the Indochinese people
Drive invaders from the land.

Fourteen men became a hundred
A hundred thousand and Ho Chi Minh
Forged and tempered the army of the Indochinese people
Freedom’s Army of Viet Minh.

Every soldier is a farmer
Comes the evening and he grabs his hoe
Comes the morning he swings his rifle on his shoulder
T’is the army of Uncle Ho.

From the mountains and the jungles
From the rice lands and the Plain of Reeds
March the men and the women of the Indochinese Army
Planting freedom with victory seeds.

From Viet Bac to the Saigon Delta
Marched the armies of Viet Minh
And the wind stirs the banners of the Indochinese people
Peace and freedom and Ho Chi Minh.

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