One Tin Soldier
"One Tin Soldier" is a 1960s counterculture era anti-war song written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Canadian pop group The Original Caste first recorded the song in 1969 for both the TA label and its parent Bell label. The track went to number 6 on the RPM Magazine charts and hit the number 1 position on CHUM AM in Toronto, and reached number 34 on the American pop charts in early 1970.
In 1971, the song was a hit in the U.S. for Coven, whose recording was featured in the film Billy Jack. The single went to number 17 on the Billboard pop chart before it was pulled from radio by the film's producer. A re-recorded version by Coven made the Billboard chart in 1973, peaking at number 79.
A 1972 remake by Skeeter Davis had moderate success on the American country charts but did very well in Canada, peaking at number 4 on the Canadian country chart and number 2 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. Davis received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal for the song.
The verse of "One Tin Soldier" is based on Pachelbel's Canon (I-V-vi-iii-IV-I-IV-V). The chorus is a simple I-V-IV-I.
"One Tin Soldier" tells the story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring peoples; the peaceful Mountain People and the warlike Valley People.
The Mountain People possess a treasure on the mountain, buried under a stone. The Valley People send a message to the Mountain People demanding it.
The Mountain People reply with an offer: they are willing to share the treasure with the Valley People. However, the Valley People instead decided to take it all by force, and in doing so kill all the Mountain People. The Valley People then move the stone and find only a simple message: "Peace on Earth".
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. Dawson asked that her band, Coven, be listed on the recording and film, not her name as a solo artist. This Warner release, titled as "One Tin Soldier, The Legend of Billy Jack," reached #17 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the fall of 1971.
The full Coven band then 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 1973. The Coven recording was named Number One All Time Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by the American Radio Broadcasters Association.
A version recorded by Guy Chandler (titled "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)") was released in the summer of 1973.
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 progressive bluegrass band Bluegrass Alliance, fronted by mandolin player Sam Bush and guitarist Tony Rice, also covered the song at bluegrass festivals in the early 1970s, as seen in a YouTube video from a 1971 festival.