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.

In 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.

Coven version[edit]

"One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)"
Single by Coven
from the album Original Sound Track Music from the Motion Picture "Billy Jack"
B-side "I Think You Always Knew (The Theme from Billy Jack)"
Released 1971
Format 7" single
Recorded 1971
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:18
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
Producer(s) Mundell Lowe

Singer Jinx Dawson of the band Coven performed the song at a 1971 session with the film's orchestra as part of the soundtrack for the Warner Bros. film 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 self-titled MGM album, which displayed the band members' whited-out faces on the cover, contrived again by the film's producer Tom Laughlin. Coven hit the charts again with the song in 1973, in both the new MGM recording and a reissue of their Warner 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 version of the song was done, sung by singer Cher of Sonny & Cher, with a video 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. ^ "Listology". Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  4. ^ 1971 festival on YouTube

External links[edit]