"Universal Soldier" is a song written and recorded by Canadiansinger-songwriterBuffy Sainte-Marie. The song was originally released on Sainte-Marie's debut album It's My Way! in 1964. "Universal Soldier" was not a popular hit at the time of its release, but it did garner attention within the contemporary folk music community. It became a hit a year later when Donovan covered it. Sainte-Marie said of the song: "I wrote 'Universal Soldier' in the basement of The Purple Onion coffee house in Toronto in the early sixties. It's about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all."
By 1965 the song had caught the attention of budding folk singer Donovan, who recorded it using a similar arrangement to Buffy Sainte-Marie's original recording. Donovan's recording was released on an EP titled The Universal Soldier in the United Kingdom (15 August 1965, Pye NEP 24219). The EP continued Donovan's run of high charting releases in the UK by reaching #5 on the charts. Tracks on the EP: "Universal Soldier"; "The Ballad of a Crystal Man" b/w "Do You Hear Me Now" (Bert Jansch); "The War Drags On" (Mick Softley)
The lack of interest in the EP format within the United States led Hickory Records to release the song as a single in September 1965 (Hickory 45-1338). Donovan's cover of "Universal Soldier" was backed with another track from the British EP, Bert Jansch's "Do You Hear Me Now?"
Donovan's US single release of "Universal Soldier" (released 9/1965, b/w "Do You Hear Me Now?", Hickory 45-1338) also became a hit, charting higher than his previous single "Colours" and ultimately reaching #53 on the Billboard charts. This success led Hickory Records to include the song on the United States release of Donovan's second album, Fairytale, replacing a cover of Bert Jansch's "Oh Deed I Do".
The story "Kilroy Was Here", in the October 2004 edition of Smithsonian, failed to recognize the lyrics of the song, written on a cot from a Vietnam War era troopship. The error was caught and commented on by more than 285 readers.