One Tin Soldier

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"One Tin Soldier"
Single by The Original Caste
from the album One Tin Soldier
B-side "Live for Tomorrow"
Released 1969
Format 7" single
Recorded 1969
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:38
Label Bell
Writer(s) Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
The Original Caste singles chronology
"I Can't Make It Anymore"
"One Tin Soldier"
"Mr. Monday"

"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, hit the number 1 position on CHUM AM in Toronto on 27 December 1969, and reached number 34 on the American pop charts in early 1970.

In 1971, a cover was a hit in the U.S. for Coven, whose recording was featured in the film Billy Jack. The single went to number 26 on the Billboard pop chart[1][2] 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, Skeeter Davis' cover version 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" has the same harmonic base as Pachelbel's Canon (I-V-VI-III-IV-I-IV-V). The chorus is a simple I-V-IV-I.[3]

Lyrics synopsis[edit]

"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, which the valley people desire. The Valley People send a message to the Mountain People demanding it; they believe the treasure is gold, for which they would kill.

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 and ironic message: "Peace on Earth".

The chorus of the song is as follows:

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 blowin' come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after — one tin soldier rides away.

Coven version[edit]

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 #26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1971.[1][2]

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. Coven's recording then hit the charts again in 1973, in both the new MGM recording and a reissue of their Warner's original. The Coven recording was named Number One All Time Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by the American Radio Broadcasters Association.[citation needed]

Other recordings[edit]

A version recorded by Guy Chandler (titled "One Tin Soldier [The Legend of Billy Jack]") was released in the summer of 1973.

An animated version of the song, sung by singing duo Sonny & Cher, was created by animator John David Wilson for The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.

Roseanne Barr parodied the song on her 1990 album I Enjoy Being a Girl.

The song has been covered by other artists, including Mad Parade, Gimp, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Bushman, 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. Abigail and Milly Shapiro covered the song for their live album Live Out Loud.

The progressive bluegrass band Bluegrass Alliance covered the song at bluegrass festivals in the early 1970s.[4]


  1. ^ a b Eduardo Rivadavia. "Coven | Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-08-25. 
  2. ^ a b Casey Kasem's American Top 40 - The 70s from November 27, 1971
  3. ^
  4. ^ 1971 festival on YouTube

External links[edit]