Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Universal Soldier

Written and first recorded by Buffy Sainte-Marie (1964).
Hit versions by Donovan (US #53/UK #5 1965), Glen Campbell (US #45/AUS #16/SWE #4 1965).

From the wiki: “‘Universal Soldier’ was written and first recorded in 1964 by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie for release on Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way!. The song was not a popular hit at the time of its release, but it did garner attention within the contemporary folk music community. Sainte-Marie said of the song: ‘I wrote ‘Universal Soldier’ in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It’s about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.’

“A year later, it caught the attention of budding folk singer Donovan, who recorded it using a similar arrangement to Sainte-Marie’s original recording but with some lyrical changes. For example, in Donovan’s version, Dachau became Liebau (Lubawka, Poland), a training center for Hitler Youth. Donovan’s recording was released in the UK on an EP titled The Universal Soldier and continued Donovan’s run of high-charting UK releases by reaching #5 on the charts.

“The lack of interest in the EP format within the United States led Hickory Records to release the song as a single in September 1965. Donovan’s US release became a Hot 100 hit, charting higher than his previous single, ‘Colours’, and ultimately reaching #53 on the Billboard chart. This success led Hickory Records to include the song on the United States release of Donovan’s second album, Fairytale, replacing a cover of Bert Jansch’s ‘Oh Deed I Do’.

“Glen Campbell’s cover, also released in 1965, charted higher than did Donovan’s versions and became Campbell’s highest-charting single to date (two years before the release of ‘Gentle on My Mind’ and ‘By The Time I Get to Phoenix’). However, Campbell was not entirely on board with the song’s pacifist message stating in a 1965 newspaper interview at the time of his cover’s release ‘people who are advocating burning draft cards should be hung.'”

Donovan, “Universal Soldier” (1965):

Glen Campbell, “Universal Soldier” (1965):

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