Released in 1969, “One Tin Soldier” became a popular song during the Vietnam War and was often heard as an anti-war anthem. It was first recorded by the Canadian pop group The Original Castle and was later on recorded by various artists.
Interestingly, the song charted every year from 1969 to 1974 on various charts, not only in the United States but also in Canada. It went to No. 6 on the RPM Magazine charts, hit the No. 1 position on CHUM AM in Toronto, and peaked at No. 34 on the American pop charts in early 1970. The song was even a bigger Adult Contemporary hit, reaching No. 25 in the United States and No. 5 in Canada.
A Moral Lesson That’s Worth Pondering
Written by the songwriting team of Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert, “One Tin Soldier” tells the tale of two neighboring tribes: the warlike Valley Folk and the peace-loving people in the Mountain Kingdom.
The mountain people possessed a great treasure buried under a stone that the Valley Folk “swore they’d have it for their very own.” So they sent a message demanding the buried treasure to which the mountain people responded calmly, saying they would share the treasure with their brothers and all the secrets of the mountain.
However, the Valley Folk thought otherwise. They’ve instead invaded and killed the mountain people. Now triumphant, the Valley Folk turned the stone and looked underneath, but they found nothing but the words “Peace On Earth” inscribed beneath it.
“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 mornin’ after, one tin soldier rides away,” the song goes.
In 1971, a cover became a hit in the United States for Jinx Dawson, lead vocalist of Coven, whose recording was featured as part of the soundtrack for the Warner Bros. film Billy Jack. This Warner release was titled “One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack),” and reached No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of that year.
The entire Coven band then re-recorded the song for their self-titled MGM album. They hit the charts once again with “One Tin Soldier” in 1973, both in the new MGM recording and a reissue of their Warner original. The Coven recording was also named No. 1 All-Time Requested Song in 1971 and 1973 by the American Radio Broadcasters Association.
Check out Coven’s performance of “One Tin Soldier” in the video below.