Cliff delivered this anti-war song in the form of a letter the narrator has received from a friend fighting in Vietnam. He told Mojo magazine July 2012 that it was inspired by the experiences of a friend of his: "I felt I could make a change through music," Cliff said, "maybe that stems back to church and Sam Cooke, but I was socially conscious and sensitive to things going in that war. A friend I went to school with, he was a great artist, he went to live with his family in America, he got drafted, went to Vietnam, and it blew his mind. He came back, he didn't recognise me, it was as if he was dead."
Bob Dylan once lauded this as "the best protest song ever written."
The song was part inspired by a close friend of Cliff's. They went to school in Somerton, Jamaica, together, but because his family lived in the States, he migrated there and got drafted for Vietnam. Cliff recalled to Uncut magazine:
"When he came back, he didn't know me. We met up again in Somerton where they have aeroplanes that fly low to spray the banana trees, and I remember he started running for cover. He lost his mind, and it was sad for me. A great person. So that was part of it, I had something personal to write about. And also I felt the war was wrong."