Billy Jack’s 1971 ONE TIN SOLDIER Gets Makeover from MarcyElle

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MarcyElle Belts out One Tin Soldier; A Truly Great Emotional Song of Meaning for a New Generation

Okay, so my daughter, MarcyElle, is a singer….who knew?

I produced this song, One Tin Soldier, for her in conjunction with Dan and David Cordero of Psychostasia.   We all worked on it to give it a signature rockin’ re-make feel for this already perfect former # 1 hit back from the 1971 smash independent movie hit “Billy Jack“.   This song was actually recorded in Spring 2011.  It’s available via digital streaming on Spotify and all the major streamers.

As for Billy Jack, well, he was a half-Indian/half-white ex-Green Beret who was drawn more and more toward his Indian side. He hated violence, but could not get away from it in the white man’s world. Pitting the good guys, the students of the peace-loving free-arts school in the desert vs. the conservative bad guys in the nearby town, the movie plays definitive late-60s themes/messages: anti-establishment, make love not war, the senseless slaughter of God’s creatures, the rape of society (figuratively and literally), two-sided justice, racial segregation and prejudices, and basic socialist ideals.

As the theme song for Billy Jack, it was perfectly woven into the politics at the time and was crushing for those of us who watched this movie when it came out.  It floored us.  Angered us, moved us, and for me, it was my first exposure to injustice and the art of protest.  Today, the song still resonates as we forge ahead into a new hopeful future while some on the ugly side of the mountain desperately try to hold on to the past of warmongering, hate, racism, intolerance, and in-humanity… We won’t let them right?  So listen for yourself and see if you can find that place where it moves you…

Lyrics

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley folk below.

On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after…
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.

Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers, we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after…
One tin soldier rides away.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after…
One tin soldier rides away.

History of “One Tin Soldier”

“One Tin Soldier” is a 1960s-era anti-war song written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. The Canadian pop group Original Caste first recorded the song in 1969. The track briefly reached limited popularity in Canada and reached Number 34 on the American pop charts in early 1970. A 1972 remake by Skeeter Davis had light success on the American country charts but did very well in Canada, peaking at number 4 on the Canadian country chart and #2 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. The song has occasion been sung by children choirs on/around Remembrance Day.

“One Tin Soldier,” tells the abstract story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring peoples, the Mountain People and the Valley People. The Valley People are aware of a treasure on the mountain, buried under a stone; they send a message to the Mountain People demanding it. When told they could share the treasure, the Valley People instead decided to take it all by force. After killing all the Mountain People, the victors move the stone and find only a simple message: “Peace on Earth”.

The lyrics of the chorus mention Biblical concepts such as Heaven, Judgment Day (Last Judgment), and justification, leading many to believe that the song had Judaic and Christian origins. Yet, arguably the most popular version of the song was credited to the band Coven, a musical act with a satanic and occult identity. This is because Coven member Jinx Dawson agreed to perform the song for the 1971 film Billy Jack, as she is half Cherokee, and the film highlights discrimination against Native Americans.

“One Tin Soldier” was recorded by Skeeter Davis in 1972, earning her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal and major chart success in Canada. An animated version of the song, sung by the singing duo Sonny & Cher, was created by animator John David Wilson for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Comedienne Roseanne Barr parodied the song on her 1990 album I Enjoy Being a Girl.

The song has been covered by other groups, including Gimp, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Killdozer. Actress Brittany Murphy, in character as Luanne Platter, sang the song on the King of the Hill soundtrack. This song was also covered by Voices for Peace, a band consisting of a group of voice actors including Greg Ayres and Tiffany Grant.

The song has become a popular YMCA/Christian camp song.

Jinx Dawson of the band Coven sang the song at a 1971 session with the film’s orchestra as part of the soundtrack for the Warner Brothers movie Billy Jack. Jinx asked that her band, Coven, be listed on the recording and film, not her name as a solo artist.

This Warner release, titled “One Tin Soldier: The Legend of Billy Jack,” reached #26 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the fall of 1971, only to be pulled from the charts by the Billy Jack film producers as it was moving up due to legal squabbles over the rights to the recording.

The full Coven band then reluctantly re-recorded the song for their MGM album. Thus the MGM album containing a second version of this song displayed their whited-out faces on the cover, contrived again by the film’s producer Tom Laughlin.

The recording then hit the charts again in both 1973 and 1974 near the end of the Vietnam War and the release of the film The Trial of Billy Jack.

The Coven recording was named Number One All-Time Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by the American Radio Broadcasters Association. A slightly different version recorded by Guy Chandler (titled “One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)”) charted in summer 1973.