“One Tin Soldier”

The mid/late 1960’s was an interesting time for music. Social conscience songs made regular appearances on the music charts, and hypocrisy in the world was alive and well.Β  I was greatly impacted in 1965 by Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” (I still play it) and, a few years later, “One Tin Soldier” was getting regular plays.

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 a 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,
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.

Now the valley cried with anger,
Mount your horses, draw your swords
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 judgement day,
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away.

45 thoughts on ““One Tin Soldier”

  1. Such meaningful lyrics… I can think of this quote from Mother Teresa :

    People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.

    Give your best anyway.

    For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

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  2. Oh, gosh! I only had to read the words “One Tin Soldier” and the melody started playing in my head – even though I couldn’t remember all the words. I’m glad you included the lyrics, too. Oddly, until today I’ve never thought of it as a spiritual song. But now I will equate with my faith and witness until I die. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this with us today.

    I remember “Eve of Destruction”, which had a different vibe. I think I’ll go look up the lyrics for that one.

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  3. I’ve had a space in my heart for this song ever since I first heard it in 1969. The message remains relevant in today’s society and most likely, always will. I find it quite interesting that the verse has the same harmonic base as Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”…my favorite piece of classical music. Thank-you, this song will in my mind and hummed all day. P.S. I’ve always liked Glen Campbell’s recording of “Universal Soldier” the most.

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    • You’re quite the musical resource Ellen! I never thought about the similarity with Pachelbel’s Canon, and never knew that Glen Campbell recorded “Universal Soldier”!!! I’ve got a good one for you next Saturday!:)


      • Glen Campbell’s was released as a single in 1965, but I have it on The Capitol Years 65/77 album. I always loved his voice, though the poor man was tortured by the demons of addiction and later by Alzheimer’s Disease. I happily anticipate next Saturday’s selection, although it may be difficult to surpass today’s choice!

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