Album: Volunteers (1970)


  • Written by Jefferson Airplane guitarist Paul Kantner and vocalist Marty Balin, this song is a call to take a stand against the US government and the war in Vietnam. In a 1993 interview with Relix, Balin explained: "It became political but it didn't start out that way. I had woken up to the sound of garbage cans crashing outside the mansion and looked out, and there was this Volunteers of America truck, so I wrote that down and gave it to Paul and he wrote the song. Bang. People put all kinds of meaning into it."
  • The B-side was "We can be Together," which is the track that kicks off the album.
  • Volunteers was the last album the band recorded before massive personnel changes altered their original sound, which was psychedelic rock.
  • A big part of the San Francisco protest scene in the '60s, Jefferson Airplane played a spirited version at Woodstock six months before the song came out. This performance is included on the original soundtrack and in the movie.
  • This was released as a single, but never charted. The album, though, was a relative success for the group, peaking at #38 in the UK (their highest-charting album there until 1972's Long John Silver) and reaching #13 in the US.
  • This appears on the Forrest Gump soundtrack. Tom Hanks was in a movie called Volunteers, but this song was not part of it.
  • When the Disney company sends their employees to do public service, they call them "Volunt-Ears."
  • Tommy Hilfiger used this in a commercial television advertisement campaign in the US market. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France

Comments: 13

  • Adam from York, PaJefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship
    was the most successful multistage band of all time.
  • Jim from Des Moines, IaDid anybody else catch the irony of Balin's statment that he wrote a song calling for leftist revolution while looking out the window of his mansion? Typical liberal hypocrisy. Oh well. They were ok musicians and broke some ground, but like most leftists, when they get money the egalitarian non-materialist crap goes right out the window.
  • Dalinda from Cresskill, NjJorma and Jack are so cool. Look at them play at Altamont with the Airplane and the song "Hesitation Blues" in 1970. Do you guys think these rock star legends read this website? if so;
    You're the best Marty,Paul,Jorma,Jack and Grace.
  • David from Youngstown, OhVolunteers of America is an organization similar to the Salvation Army. Balin probably saw it on a truck, but not on a garbage one unless it was a public service announcement for the organization on the side of a garbage truck (highly unlikely). From the VOA Web site: VOA is "one the nation's largest and most comprehensive human services organizations, serving more than 2 million people each year, including at-risk youth, the frail elderly, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, and those recovering from addictions."
  • Adelina from Tromso, NorwayActualy, it'a a song from 1969, not 1970. And it was performed at Woodstock.
  • Lucy from Nowhereland, TnYes, I was going to say, it's written about a Garbage Truck...
    And.. VoluntEars? How.. Creative?
  • Kyle from Loveland, CoBelieve it or not, the idea was inspired by a garbage truck. Marty Balin stated, "One morning somebody was banging the garbage cans outside my window. I looked out and it said on the truck, 'Volunteers of America.' I leaned over and wrote, "Hey, what's happening on the street, da-da-da...' Paul put some music to it, and it became kind of an anthemic thing for us. I say it's about a truck picking up some garbage and people don't believe me."
  • Fyodor from Denver, Co"Got to revolution" sounds like a larger goal than just ending US military involvement in Viet Nam (the North's victory actually ended the war). I was disappointed at how wimpy the studio version of this song is compared to the Woodstock version, which is pretty rad. Dave, are you or Jorma in the Hocking Hills region? That's some pretty country!
  • Max from Parma, OhThis song is now featured on a Tommy Hilfiger commercial. Oh, the humanity...
  • Barry from New York, NcThe Jefferson Airplane was not featured in the Woodstock movie, but in the director's cut you can see their performances of SATURURDAY AFTERNOON/WON'T YOU TRY and UNCLE SAM BLUES(featuring Jorma and Jack). Also the Airplane do OTHER SIDE OF THIS LIFE, their opening number, but it is cut short by a fadeout (an extremely poor choice in the director's cut I'd say).
  • Erik from Oc, CaThis isn't in the Woodstock movie
  • Claire from Oak Ridge, Tn"VoluntEars?" How clever! Executives of Disney, cheapeners of romance, happy-ending makers out of noting, quit with the corny puns! You can all get sick from sugar coating and bad reviews for your lousy new movies!
  • Dave from Pomeroy, OhFormer lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen now lives in Southeastern Ohio and has a camp where you can learn to play music from some of the masters in the business, It's called the Fur Peace Ranch. He alos tours with former Airplane member jack Cassady as Hot Tuna.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

George Clinton

George ClintonSongwriter Interviews

When you free your mind, your ass may follow, but you have to make sure someone else doesn't program it while it's wide open.

Andy McClusky of OMD

Andy McClusky of OMDSongwriter Interviews

Known in America for the hit "If You Leave," OMD is a huge influence on modern electronic music.

Classic Metal

Classic MetalFact or Fiction

Ozzy, Guns N' Roses, Judas Priest and even Michael Bolton show up in this Classic Metal quiz.

Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins

Tom Bailey of Thompson TwinsSongwriter Interviews

Tom stopped performing Thompson Twins songs in 1987, in part because of their personal nature: "Hold Me Now" came after an argument with his bandmate/girlfriend Alannah Currie.

Yacht Rock!

Yacht Rock!Song Writing

A scholarly analysis of yacht rock favorites ("Steal Away," "Baker Street"...) with a member of the leading YR cover band.

Al Kooper

Al KooperSongwriter Interviews

Kooper produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, played with Dylan and the Stones, and formed BS&T.