Eve of Destruction, written by P.F. Sloan and performed by Barry McGuire, is a classic protest song from the ‘Sixties that rings eerily truthful these days. The lyrics say everything that needs to be said, in the here and now, almost sixty years later.
This gritty and once imperfect song (see video below) became an anthem to antiwar hippies and college students speaking out against the Vietnam War. Though I’ll never tire of hearing the ominous drum intro, I’m not eager to appreciate it finding contemporary relevance again.
Eve of Destruction – Lyrics
The Eastern world, it is explodin' Violence flarin', bullets loadin' You're old enough to kill but not for votin' You don't believe in war, but what's that gun you're totin'? And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin' But you tell me over and over and over again my friend Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction Don't you understand what I'm trying to say? Can't you feel the fear that I'm feeling today? If the button is pushed, there's no running away There'll be no one to save with the world in a grave Take a look around you boy, it's bound to scare you, boy But you tell me over and over and over again, my friend Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin' I'm sittin' here just contemplatin' I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation Handful of Senators don't pass legislation And marches alone can't bring integration When human respect is disintegratin' This whole crazy world is just too frustratin' And you tell me over and over and over again my friend Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction Think of all the hate there is in Red China Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama Ah, you may leave here for four days in space But when you return, it's the same old place The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace You can bury your dead but don't leave a trace Hate your next door neighbor but don't forget to say grace And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction
When the Berlin wall fell, which some considered the symbolic end to the cold war, I had just become a teenager. My limited political knowledge came from Much Music videos (Canadian MTV, of the day), and I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was all about, but I recall watching the news and soaking up the giddiness of the occasion.
It is surreal to be entering the time warp that is Cold War with Russia, merely needing to look to the art canon for salient expression, older generations no doubt with a prevailing sense of déjà vu.
I hope to take solace in the robust and emotionally charged works that are sure to flourish during these noxious times, turning darkness into light, as only the vulnerability of art can do.
Creators, right now, across the globe, birthing new ideas, countless mediums, finding ways to let out our collective sigh of exasperation, attempting to balance the scales, mourning the death throes of humanity. If there is no love to be had, let us bear fruit in creation.
Below Barry McGuire explains how they recorded Eve of Destruction in one take, and goes on to share how the song was written into the history books.
What are some antiwar songs that you have on your playlist?
Are there songs that you associate with conflict and war that you still like to hear?