#34 Eve of Destruction: songwriter P. F. Sloan: sung by Barry McGuire: released 1965.
Eve of Destruction was written in 1964 by 19 year old P.F. Sloan. Sloan says he wrote the song in the early hours of the morning and the words just came to him; he says he wrote is as “a prayer to God for an answer.” The Songfacts link above is an excellent read for more detailed information.
Although it was the B side of a single, the song went to #1 in America as soon as it was given airplay. It has been labelled as a Protest Song although Sloan states that he did not write it as a protest song but rather out of a deep concern for what he was seeing happening in the world at the time and he was seeking some answers.
Barry McGuire states something similar, he says he wasn’t actually protesting but rather singing about the news of the world at the time. However, there is no doubt that the news was disturbing and that the world absolutely needed some fixing. The following link which is part of an interview with McGuire is worth a view. Barry McGuire ‘Eve of Destruction’ was not a protest song it was a diagnostic of societal hypocrisy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2g60rVeks8
Nevertheless, it is a pretty good Protest Song and one which still packs a forceful punch. It is just as true, or even more truthful today, as when Sloan penned it. Sloan states that, The song contained a number of issues that were unbearable for me at the time and for any thinking person there is still a growing number of unbearable issues in our world.
This is a song I used as a resource when teaching Modern History. I would play it and have the students write down all the historical and social issues the lyrics mention. And there are many. Below is a list:
The Vietnam War and conscription, war and violence in The Middle East, the Cold War and nuclear warfare, protest marches (against segregation and young men being conscripted before they were of voting age), the Space Race, Communism, racial and social tensions of Southern USA, Selma To Montgomery National Historic Trail (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov) (think Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr.)
Basically, the lyrics are a call out on hypocrisy; hate your next door neighbour but don’t forget to say grace and they expose the thin veneer of civility humans wear to cover their very base instincts of greed and power.
Because of its enormous popularity at the time, Eve of Destruction was instrumental in the passing of the 26th amendment which was passed by U S Congress on March 23rd, 1971 and ratified July 1, 1971. It granted the right to American citizens aged eighteen or older to vote. This meant young people now had the right to vote in their country before they were sent off to fight, and perhaps die, for it.
I have included 2 You tube clips. The first is of the original song and includes clips from Vietnam War. I do have to warn viewers that both clips have some confronting images. Unfortunately, the subject matter of this song is confronting and so is much of what we are seeing today with the situation in the Ukraine. Like Sloan, we need to be praying!
The clip below is an updated version from 2012. The words are sightly different and the images are more contemporary.
Eve of Destruction is another of those songs which just does not get old. Its message is as valuable and as needed in current times as ever. When I write these blogs, one of my hopes is that readers will look further into the stories behind the songs. We do face many challenges in the world, but it is still a wonderful world. Thank you, Louis Armstrong!