June 6

“The Ballad of the Yellow Beret”: A Protest Against Protesters

"The Ballad of the Yellow Beret": A Protest Against Protesters 1
The Ballad of the Yellow Beret record. Photo Credits: discogs.com

About “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret”, A Parody Song

The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” was written by American singer-songwriter Bob Seger and composed by D. Dodger (Draft Dodger). It is a parody of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler‘s 1966 hit “The Ballad of the Green Berets“. To note, Sadler’s song was massive that it stormed the charts in February 1966. It placed no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Cashbox, and Billboard Adult Contemporary all at the same time.

"The Ballad of the Yellow Beret": A Protest Against Protesters 2
SSGT Barry Sadler. Photo Credits: Getty Images/Bettmann

Also, it peaked at no. 2 on the Country charts. In just the first two weeks of its release, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” sold more than two million copies worldwide. The song was all about the U.S. Military Special Forces fighting group called the Green Berets.

With the success that the Barry Sadler song gained earlier in 1966, “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” materialized as an answer to Sadler’s hit. Actually, the parody song was not the only answer song based on the hit. There were several others like “He Wore the Green Beret” by Nancy Ames, “The Son of a Green Beret (A Child’s Ballad Of The Green Berets)” by Craig Arthur both in 1966.

“The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” is more than a parody song…

"The Ballad of the Yellow Beret": A Protest Against Protesters 3
Bob Seger. Publicity photo donated to the Rock Hall Archives

American group The Beach Bums, with Bob Seger singing the vocals, originally performed “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret“. Based on its lyrics, the song is a protest song against the Vietnam War protesters. It does not promote the military service; however, it does not mean that it is not patriotic in its sense at all. Actually, according to sources, the song presents a rare case of a novelty record that points out those who protested the Vietnam war in the 1960’s.

Although “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” was under the Are You Kidding Me label, the song was issued on Hideout/Punch label disregarding the rights of the composer Dodger and writer Seger.

Just like the original song, “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” became popular and it invaded several radio stations. This did not escape from the ears of Barry Sadler himself and his label, RCA. After hearing the parody, they threatened to file a case and lawsuit. This forced the recording label to withdraw the song from the market. Hence, this is the reason why the song is hard to find these days.

Here’s the lyrics of the parody song “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret“:

This is a protest against protesters:
Fearless cowards of the U.S.A
Bravely here at home they stay
They watch their friends get shipped away
The draft dodgers of the Yellow Beret

Yellow streaks up and down their spines
Men who gladly stay behind
They won’t fight for the U.S.A
They fought hard for the yellow beret

Men who faint at the sight of blood
Their high heeled boots weren’t meant for mud
The draft board will hear their sob stories today
Only the best the yellow beret

Back at home a young wife waits
Her yellow beret has met his fate
He’s been drafted for marching in a protest
Leaving her his last request
Put a yellow streak down my sons back
Make sure that he never ever fights back
At his physical have him say he’s gay
Have him win the yellow beret
The yellow beret
Yeah the yellow beret

Listen to The Beach Bums parody song “The Ballad of the Yellow Beret” below:

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Bob Seger, The Ballad of the Green Berets, The Ballad of the Yellow Beret, The Beach Bums

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