Billy Don’t Be a Hero

Billy Don’t Be a Hero is a 1974 pop song that was first a hit in the UK for Paper Lace and then some months later it was a hit in the US for Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods. The song was written by two British songwriters Mitch Murray and Peter Callander.

Because the song was released in 1974, it was associated by some listeners with the Vietnam War, though it actually refers to an unidentified war. But the drum pattern, references to a marching band leading soldiers in blue, and “riding out” (cavalry) would seem to be referencing the American Civil War.

A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to leave the area with Army recruiters passing through the town and go with them to fight. She laments,

Billy, don’t be a hero, Don’t be a fool with your life
Billy, don’t be a hero, Come back and make me your wife
And as he started to go, she said, ‘Billy keep your head low’
Billy, don’t be a hero, Come back to me.

The song goes on to describe how Billy is killed in action in a pitched battle after volunteering to ride out and seek reinforcements (which suggests mounted infantry and a lack of modern two-way radio communications). In the end, the woman throws away the official letter notifying her of Billy’s “heroic” death.

The marchin’ band came down along Maine Street
The soldier blues fell in behind
I looked across and there I saw Billy
Waiting to go and join the line

And with her head upon his shoulder
His young and lovely fiancée
From where I stood I saw she was cryin’
And through her tears I heard her say

Billy, don’t be a hero, don’t be a fool with your life
Billy, don’t be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as Billy started to go she said keep your pretty head low
Billy, don’t be a hero, come back to me

The soldier blues were trapped on a hillside
The battle raging all around
The sergeant cried, we’ve got to hang on, boys
We’ve gotta hold this piece of ground

I need a volunteer to ride out
And bring us back some extra men
And Billy’s hand was up in a moment
Forgettin’ all the words she said, she said

Billy, don’t be a hero, don’t be a fool with your life
Billy, don’t be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as Billy started to go she said, keep your pretty head low
Billy, don’t be a hero, come back to me

I heard his fiancée got a letter
That told how Billy died that day
The letter said that he was a hero
She should be proud he died that way
I heard she threw the letter away

Songwriters
CALLANDER, PETER / MURRAY, MITCH

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About arnulfo

veterano del ciberespacio
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