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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.

Saving The Whales

Saving The Whales

After a whole afternoon of panic at the thought of having to interview Country Joe I arrived at what was, I discovered, a real live press conference. A coffee bar in the Williams centre was crammed with very trendy looking people and I felt very out of place.

In the corner wearing a t-shirt with "save the whales" written on it was Country Joe McDonald.

He is not much like the Country Joe of Woodstock "Give me on F....." fame. Woodstock is in the past.

"Many people in my audience are too young to remember Woodstock".

The image followed him around for a few years but now it is Country Joe the conservationist. He prefers to talk about saving the whales.

After the Vietnam thing died down he floated around looking for something to get involved in. For a while it was the feminist movement. He used to think of himself as a male temimst. But not any more.

"A true feminist doesn't ask for support from males".

Later he read about the plight of the whales in the book "A whale for the killing". He read more and more about whales and endangered species in general. That is how it started.

For him it is a whole new way of life. "The pieces fit together, everything seems to make sense".

Conservation transcends the nationalism of an anti war movement. He sees it as something everyone can get personally involved in. Country Joe doesn't smoke any more, nor does he use aerosols or paper bags, and he is careful about how much water he runs.

As a boy he saw L. A. change into the polluted city it is now. "We used to have clear nights like you have here". He knows what can happen. He sees the conservation movement as very innocent. It has no big financial backers or political affiliations.

But Country Joe cares most about whales, "I feel humbled by them. They are beautiful flowing creatures". His belt buckle has a whale on it.

Things are good for him now, he has a cause, "You need a cause to believe in, to do something with your life something that is bigger than yourself." The "Save the Whale'" movement is just that.

He used to play in clubs, but not now. He doesn't drink anymore, its bad for his voice. He no longer uses drugs either. Nowadays he plays to small audiences, 1500 people in a high school gym.

Joe's band has been with him for two years. This tour marks the end of a period of intensive studio work. Now they want to record some live material.

Joe writes and sings all his own songs, with the exception of the odd Woody Guthrie numbers. He writes songs about whales and coyotes, but will not put more than a few on any one album. "I like to keep my albums varied". "Love is A Fire' was an album of all love songs though.

After New Zealand, County Joe will go to Australia, then Japan. In Tokyo there is going to be a conservation festival, something along the line's of the "California celebrates the whale" festival in Sacramento 5 months ago. Helping to organise the festival will be one of the promoters of Woodstock, but it is not really a commerical venture.

Joe does not see the trip to Japan as entering the enemy's camp. "Save the Whale" has a lot of support there.

About there we ran out of things to talk about. Joe said "I'm all talked out". So with the biography the promoter had given me firmly tucked in my hand I waltzed out of my first ever press conference.

— Richard Bohmer.

Photo of Country Joe McDonald