Our top 10 Country Joe and The Fish songs list looks at the catalog of an American band famed for its psychedelic rock tunes. The band was formed in 1965 when Country Joe McDonald and Barry Melton, aka, The Fish came together to form a duo. Both of them were vocalists and guitarists. However, Country Joe played the acoustic guitar while The Fish was the lead guitarist. Inspired by Woody Guthrie, father to Arlo Guthrie, the two were avid folk music lovers who set their eyes on glory in the folk scene.
Country Joe was a publisher at Rag Baby (then Et Tu Brute), a magazine that featured political messages, poetry, and drawings. He was also part of the Free Speech Movement that opposed the Vietnam War. Country Joe took his anti-war protest to his magazine. As if that was not enough, he used his active profile in the flourishing folk scene to channel his thoughts through songs. The result was Country Joe and The Fish hitting the studio to release an EP.
With the EP, Country Joe and The Fish band established itself as a folk act driven by political protest. Songs like “The Fish Cheer” and “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” explain this claim better. Country Joe and Barry Melton were soon joined by bassist Bruce Barthol, guitarist David Bennett Cohen, guitarist Paul Armstrong, and drummer John Francis-Gunning. Now a large group, the band was ready to seek even more popularity in the folk scene. But, would the band be successful as a six-piece ensemble?
Absolutely! Country Joe and The Fish had the band’s popularity grow immensely, and in 1966, the band was ready for a sophomore EP. With the sophomore EP, the band added some psychedelic rock elements to its folk songs. This came with incorporating some electric instruments for the band’s music. The band was now famed for its psychedelic folk vibes having it feature in reputable music festivals most notably Woodstock.
In 1967, the band was ready for the release of its debut album after a long time of waiting. Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967) saw the band venture deep into the psychedelic vibes.
The band was quite active from then till 1970, after which the band started disintegrating. While we didn’t hear much from the band after that, Country Joe and The Fish has tried to revive its glory several times. Both Country Joe McDonald and Barry Melton chased solo careers. The band prides itself with six studio albums, two extended plays, two live albums, and several compilation albums.
#10 – Bass Strings
Opening our top 10 Country Joe and The Fish songs is the hit “Bass Strings.” Who would have thought that a song about marijuana would become quite a hit in such times? While the drug references made the song not eligible for mainstream airplay, “Bass Strings” was quite a popular song on underground radio stations. Unique about the song is its dreamlike beats that incorporate sleek bass and perfect drumming. While some might have felt it more like a blues hit, its imagery makes it totally psychedelic. The band was among the first acts to sing about drugs in such as manner.
#9 – Grace
“Grace” is one of the musical gems from the band’s album Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967). The song is an all-time classic that features psychedelic elements prominently. It’s great arrangement is enough to have you take a ride to the deepest of your emotions. Country Joe McDonald penned this song in honor of Grace Slick, who was a vocalist with the legendary Jefferson Airplane.
#8 – An Untitled Protest
Together (1968) is the last album that Country Joe and The Fish released with its original members. The album featured the hit “An Untitled Protest,” one of the best anti-war songs in the psychedelic folk scene. “An Untitled Protest” was penned by the members of Country Joe and The Fish regarding the Vietnam War. Its lyrics are delivered over a swelling organ dirge and splendid and chilling vocals.
#7- Section 43
“Section 43” is an outstanding hit from Country Joe and The Fish’s album Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967). The seven-minute song was penned by Country Joe McDonald. “Section 43” was initially released only six weeks after the band’s inception alongside two other hits on the band’s first EP. The song finds balance in psychedelia and acid rock genres, making it one of the notable proto-progressive rock recordings from the 1960s.
#6- Flying High
Number six on our top 10 Country Joe and The Fish songs is the melodic hit “Flying High.” The song is just one of the glittering components of Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967). Its catchy tune and exquisite lyrics prove that the song’s release was a job perfectly done. Psychedelic music lovers should add this to the catalog of their favorite tunes from the ’60s.
In our top 10 songs about money article, we reviewed the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles. The song alluded to how money can do a lot of things for one but can never (and will never) buy true love. It seems The Beatles were not the only ones who knew this back in the 20th Century. Country Joe and The Fish’s song “Love” finds a guy confessing his love for a woman having him quote that he has something money cannot buy. And that thing is “Love.”
#4- Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
“Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” became a staple for the American college radio upon its release. This psychedelic hit alludes to a mysterious lady who is quite spontaneous with her actions and obsessed with death. Quite weird lyrical content but still a great jam to listen to. The song rose to number ninety-eight on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Even when love fails to work, it is quite often that the one’s involved might end up missing each other at some point. After all, there’s always something good about any romantic relationship that ever existed. Country Joe McDonald gives life to this claim with the song “Janis,” which he penned for singer Janis Joplin. Apparently, the two were a thing in 1967 but failed to get the love they wanted. In the end, Country Joe McDonald left Janis Joplin for Robin Menken, who he would later marry. Janis Joplin asked Country Joe McDonald to pen a song for her, and the result was “Janis.”
#2- Rock & Soul Music
Excuse us for a while, Rock and Roll, and let us usher in some “Rock & Soul Music.” Melodic and sweet is the best description of this song by Country Joe and The Fish. In the song’s intro, the lead vocalist tells of inspiration by James Brown, who was often regarded as the “Godfather of Soul.” The song features one of the most exhilarating ascending crescendos in the lead guitar. What a perfect bass! Superb drumming too! Prepare to “Rock and Soul” with this catchy tune that will take you through a rollercoaster of groovy vibes.
#1- I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag
Number one on our top 10 Country Joe and The Fish songs is the hit “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag.” Country Joe and The Fish were initially famed for their protest songs. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” is one of their famous protest songs against the Vietnam War. The song is characterized by dark humor and sarcasm. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” has been covered by several artists, including Pete Seeger, The Passion Killers, and Albert Lee.
Photo: Jay Godwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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