David Bennett Cohen performing with Country Joe and the Fish at The Monterey International Pop Festival, 1967
David Bennett Cohen played guitar and piano and introduced the electronic organ to sound of Country Joe and The Fish. Like others in the psychedelic rock genre, this group from Berkeley, CA had it's roots in folk music, and the protest traditions of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Those roots branched out into themes of outrage and satire as the Free Speech Movement (the FSM) and Students for a Democratic Society protested injustice in the Bay Area. They moved to San Francisco after Joe MacDonald's, "I'm Fixin' to Die Rag," became an underground sensation. Admittedly, their inspiration was fueled by LSD trips, a passion for ecology and free love. Embracing the switch to electronic instruments and firmly planted them in the rock world and later shows incuded the very psychedelic light shows made famous by other San Francisco bands. I remember being amazed to hear musicians singing lyrics in clear defiance of the status quo and the military industrial complex. "Wouldn't they "get 'in trouble'?" I asked myself. But that was the whole point then! They wouldn't! And they sounded the clarion call for others to follow their breaking the silence that masked the genocidal behavior of the US during Vietnam. Most of us just felt sickened as we watched the body bags of US soldiers being unloaded from planes, while our musicians shouted, mocked and accused The Emperor (who definitely) Had No Clothes.
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