Eric Burdon and The Animals: Sky Pilot (1968)

Sky Pilot was written and recorded by Eric Burdon and The Animals in 1967 and released the following year. Its lyrics are not concerned with aircrews or planes, as the title implies. Instead, Sky Pilot is about military chaplains and the role they play in supporting and perpetuating war. In its lyrics, the chaplain, a “good holy man”, “blesses the boys” as they prepare for battle and assures them that they are “soldiers of God”. This is followed by a long interlude featuring heavy guitar, bagpipes and the sounds of warfare. Burdon’s vocals resume to remind us of the Sixth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”. Because of its considerable length (seven and a half minutes) Sky Pilot did not receive as much radio airplay as other anti-war songs. Shortened versions charted at number seven in Australia, number 14 in the US and number 40 in Britain.

He blesses the boys as they stand in line
The smell of gun grease and the bayonets they shine
He’s there to help them all that he can
To make them feel wanted he’s a good holy man

Sky pilot… pilot
How high can you fly
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

He smiles at the young soldiers
Tells them its all right
He knows of their fear in the forthcoming fight
Soon there’ll be blood and many will die
Mothers and fathers back home they will cry

Sky pilot… pilot
How high can you fly
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
The order is given, they move down the line
But he’s still behind and he’ll meditate
But it won’t stop the bleeding or ease the hate
As the young men move out into the battle zone
He feels good, with God you’re never alone
He feels tired and he lays on his bed
Hopes the men will find courage in the words that he said

Sky pilot… Pilot
How high can you fly
You’ll never, never, never reach the sky

You’re soldiers of God you must understand
The fate of your country is in your young hands
May God give you strength, do your job real well
If it all was worth it, only time it will tell
In the morning they return with tears in their eyes
The stench of death drifts up to the skies
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words “Thou shalt not kill”

Sky pilot… pilot
How high can you fly
You never, never, never reach the sky

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