“The king is in the counting house, laughing and stumbling”

Great American Eagle Tragedy

The Great American Eagle Tragedy by Earth Opera has been running through my mind lately, It was one of the best, if lesser-known, protest songs of the late 1960s. The lyrics are passionate and the music is superb. Little has changed since 1969 except now it’s “foreign desert wars” instead of “foreign jungle wars.” The kingdom continues to crumble, as witness our near-psychotic presidential race. The stress fractures are everywhere.

The song starts slowly, with lyrics beginning at 2:50 and builds to a frenzied, stunning conclusion.

And call out the border guard.
The kingdom is crumbling.
The king is in the counting house,
Laughing and stumbling.
His armies are extended,
Way beyond the shore.
As he sends our lovely boys to die
In a foreign jungle war

Earth Opera was formed by bluegrass and folk virtuosos Peter Rowan and David Grisman. Rowan was guitarist and lead vocalist for Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys before Earth Opera. He returned to his bluegrass roots in the late 1970s. Grisman returned to bluegrass too, and continues to play in two groups, and was a long-time friend of Jerry Garcia and played on the seminal Old And In The Way.

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