Draft Dodger Rag

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"Draft Dodger Rag"
Song by Phil Ochs from the album I Ain't Marching Anymore
Published 1964
Released 1965
Genre Protest song, folk
Length 2:07
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Phil Ochs
Producer(s) Jac Holzman
"The Draft Dodger Rag"
Single by Pete Seeger
from the album Dangerous Songs!?
B-side Guantanamera
Released 1966
Format Vinyl
Genre Country folk
Length 2:10
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Phil Ochs
Pete Seeger singles chronology
"Healing River"
"The Draft Dodger Rag
"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"

"Draft Dodger Rag" is a satirical anti-war song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s known for being a harsh critic of the American military industrial complex. Originally released on his 1965 album, I Ain't Marching Anymore, "Draft Dodger Rag" quickly became an anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement.[1]

Ochs wrote "Draft Dodger Rag" as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow.[2] The song is sung from the perspective of a gung-ho young man who has been drafted. When he reports for duty, however, the young man recites a list of reasons why he can't serve, including poor vision, flat feet, a ruptured spleen, allergies and asthma, back pain, addiction to multiple drugs, his college enrollment, his disabled aunt, and the fact that he carries a purse.[2][3] (One historian of the draft resistance movement wrote that Ochs "described nearly every available escape from conscription".[3]) As the song ends, the young man tells the sergeant that he'll be the first to volunteer for "a war without blood or gore".[2][4]

"Draft Dodger Rag" was the first prominent satirical song about the draft during the Vietnam War.[5] One writer says its humor can be appreciated on its own level, without respect to the political message of the song.[6] Another says it added "much-needed humour" to the protest song genre.[7]

Ochs wrote of the song:

In Vietnam, a 19-year-old Vietcong soldier screams that Americans should leave his country as he is shot by a government firing squad. His American counterpart meanwhile is staying up nights thinking up ways to deceptively destroy his health, mind, or virility to escape two years in a relatively comfortable army. Free enterprise strikes again.[8]

Ochs performed "Draft Dodger Rag" in 1965 on a CBS Evening News television special Avoiding the Draft, one of the rare instances in which he appeared on a national American television broadcast.[9][10]

The Smothers Brothers[edit]

On November 19, 1967, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour featured the Smothers Brothers and actor George Segal singing "Draft Dodger Rag". Dick Smothers introduced the song by saying it was about a "great effort" some young American men were making. Tom Smothers added that the song was about a problem and how it was being solved with "good old American ingenuity". They ended the song by proclaiming "Make love, not war!"[11]

Cover versions[edit]

Several performers beside the Smothers Brothers have covered "Draft Dodger Rag", including the Chad Mitchell Trio, The Four Preps, Kind of Like Spitting, Tom Paxton, David Rovics, and Pete Seeger.[12] Seeger's version was released as a single.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Perone, James E. (2004). Music of the Counterculture Era. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-313-32689-4. 
  2. ^ a b c Dean, Maury (2003). Rock 'n' Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia. New York: Algora Publishing. p. 78. ISBN 0-87586-207-1. 
  3. ^ a b Foley, Michael S. (2003). Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 72–73. ISBN 0-8078-5436-0. 
  4. ^ Ochs, Phil (1964). Songs of Phil Ochs. New York: Appleseed Music. p. 11. OCLC 41480512. 
  5. ^ Perone, James E. (2001). Songs of the Vietnam Conflict. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-313-31528-0. 
  6. ^ Perone. Songs of the Vietnam Conflict. p. 90. 
  7. ^ Simmonds, Jeremy (2008) [2006]. The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. p. 87. ISBN 1-55652-754-3. 
  8. ^ Ochs, Phil (1965). I Ain't Marching Anymore (Media notes). Elektra. EKL-287/EKS-7287. 
  9. ^ Cohen, David (1999). Phil Ochs: A Bio-Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 232. ISBN 0-313-31029-7. 
  10. ^ Schumacher, Michael (1996). There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs. New York: Hyperion. p. 179. ISBN 0-7868-6084-7. 
  11. ^ Bodroghkozy, Aniko (2001). Groove Tube: Sixties Television and the Youth Rebellion. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. pp. 127–128. ISBN 0-8223-2645-0. 
  12. ^ Cohen, Phil Ochs, pp. 278, 285, 286.
  13. ^ Spotlight Singles. Billboard. July 9, 1966. p. 16. 

External links[edit]