Login   Sign Up 


Universal Trader

by Zettel 

Posted: 13 March 2019
Word Count: 224
Summary: Cf: Universal Soldier

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

The Universal Trader
In pure silk ties and a pinstripe suit
He deals in deadly merchandise
He sells to everyone, without question without pause
He’s made a profit from a thousand wars
He sells to Muslims and to Jews, to tyrants and to kings
To Catholics and Protestants the same
And he knows he shouldn’t sell
Yes he knows it very well
Killing you for me my friend and me for you
And he’s selling to Syria
And ISIS buys too
He’s selling for the USA
And he’s selling for Great Britain
And he’s selling arms for France
And he always makes a profit win or lose
And he’s selling for Democracy
He’s selling death for gain
He says it’s for the good of all
He’s the one whose trade decides
Who will live and who will die
And he never sees his deadly profits fall
But without him how would Saddam have
Held power in Iraq
Without him tyrants could not terrorize
He’s the one who launders money
From his profits selling war
And without him all this killing can’t go on
He’s the Universal Trader and he
really is to blame
The only one who thinks he knows the score
He doesn’t care who’s right or wrong
Whose children he will maim
And he’s why we’ll never put an end to war.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

V`yonne at 17:10 on 14 March 2019  Report this post
That is very effective and oh so true. 

James Graham at 21:35 on 17 March 2019  Report this post
This time I have no political reservations. Universal Trader, like its inspiration, speaks the truth. Perhaps even more so: in Universal Soldier we have ‘he really is to blame’, which I suppose is ultimately true if it’s conceivable that all young men and women might have a real choice to join or refuse to join the armed services. But where you say of the Trader ‘he really is to blame’ there’s little to argue about.
In light of the stance taken in Buffy’s song, the tone of your lyrics need not be too different.The soldier and the arms manufacturer both contribute to the horrors of war. And the fact that you can adopt a similar tone helps bring your song closer in spirit to the original.
Now, I’ve listened, with great pleasure as always, to Buffy Sainte-Marie, with your words and those of the original in front of me. I can see – or rather hear – very little wrong. Line by line, your words virtually always fit the tune, and I’ve no doubt that the spirit of your song is very much in accord with Universal Soldier. You could say it’s complementary to the original: Buffy says the soldier is to blame (we know what she means) and you are saying the Trader is at least equally to blame. I would say more so. Buffy’s song needs your song to complement it.
I’d better reiterate here that I’m no musician, and walk on thin ice when criticising a song. However, I will mention one line, line 3 of the last verse:
He’s the Universal Trader and he really is to blame
The only one who thinks he knows the score
He doesn’t care who’s right or wrong, whose children he will maim
And we know this lethal game
Is why we’ll never put an end to war.
This presumably is equivalent to the third line of
He's the universal soldier and he really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war
but it’s much longer. Did you have in mind that the melody could be extended to accommodate the second half of that long line? I imagine it could, and it would be better than having to leave out ‘whose children he will maim’. I hope that makes sense.
Apart from this, there are just two minor points. In the very first line, it seems to me that two ‘shiny’s are too many:
He wears pinstripe suits and shiny shoes
This fits the rhythm of
He's five feet two and he's six feet four
Second, in the last line of verse 2 you might include ‘my friend’ as in the original. Maybe you had a reason for leaving it out?
This song deserves to be performed. Do you know anyone who could write out the score and perhaps even perform it? It’s more than good enough.
P.S. The best journalistic treatment of arms manfacturers I know is Chapter 19 of Robert Fisk’s book The Great War for Civilisation. The chapter is headed ‘Now thrive the armourers…’ He interviews arms producers and dealers and finds that they often quite successfully distance themselves from the end uses of their products. One says, ‘The purpose of a tank is to kill a tank’. When Fisk reminds him that there are human beings inside the tank, he seems to blank out this uncomfortable fact.

Zettel at 01:38 on 20 March 2019  Report this post
Quick holdong reply.


Thanks for the comments. I want to check out your suggestions.

I'll come back to you.


Zettel at 03:00 on 27 March 2019  Report this post

Thanms for your help on this.  I first did this a while ago and hadn't revisited it until you mentioned trying to put lyrics to an existing tune.

Thinking about your helpful commments made me look very closely at my first draft. As well as implementing your suggestions I realised that although my version had the same number of syllables as the original, my rhythm and cadence was at time at odds this making it hard to sing exactly as theorginal was sung. I think the latest version overcomes this and is pretty much beat for beat in line with Buffy's.  I have also taken the opportunity to update the country references to current conflicts in the Middle East.

I think this fits now and could in fact be sung pretty much as a complement (and compliment) to an iconic original.

Buffy's last album Medicine Songs is superb and well worth a listen (and purchase)/



James Graham at 17:51 on 28 March 2019  Report this post
Thanks Keith for giving me an excuse (as if one was needed) to listen to Buffy again. She is wonderful. I'm pretty sure your lyrics now fit the music perfectly. There was never any doubt that the song is in keeping with the spirit of the original. So please let us know if you find a musician who can write the score and even perform the song.


Zettel at 10:58 on 03 April 2019  Report this post
I thought this might be of interest 

From:Buffy Sainte-Marie 
Date:3 April 2019 at 06:33:58 BST
To:Keith Farman <keithfarman23@gmail.com>
Subject:Re: Universal Trader

Hi Keith, 
Except for a few places that don’t scan comfortably, that’s pretty darn good!  Have you heard Gun Dealer by Jon Brooks? It’s AWESOME! He’s a pacifist but wrote his song from the point of view of a gun dealer. It’s chilling! 
I’m on the road in Canada. Wishing you well.


James Graham at 21:06 on 04 April 2019  Report this post
This is amazing! I envy you - you've had a message from Buffy herself! And she likes 'Universal Trader'. I wonder, where do you go from here? Onwards and upwards?


Zettel at 14:46 on 05 April 2019  Report this post
Thanks James

A few years ago I raised a little money for Buffy's Cradleboard Project (within her her Nihewan Foundation) running a half-marathon. I was surprised and gratified to receive a personal thank you from her and we have had occasional correspondence over the last 10 years or so. I have met her three times backstage once with my family.  She's a bit of a (unsung - sic) heroine of mine. Her life-story is extraordinary - and inspirational. (There is a biography).

In the light of her comments I have refined mine a bit more and posted it above.  As with your own comments on my poems, the challenge to improve is a great gift.



Zettel at 17:07 on 05 April 2019  Report this post

Look on Amazon under books/ Andrea Warner. Just published authorised biography scroll down to reviews. Wow!


James Graham at 20:58 on 06 April 2019  Report this post
I’ve thought about your refinements as best I can, and I’m sure they’re pretty much the last refinements you’re going to need. If you’ve followed Buffy’s advice, you will be firmly on the right track. I’ve said it already but it bears saying again: this is a true complement (as well as a compliment) to the original song.
Thanks for the reference to the biography. I have three new books waiting to be read, after I’ve finished the one I’m reading at the moment! But I’ll add Buffy’s biography to the list. I did read something of her life online, and it has been extraordinary - so many awards and honours, but what is outstanding (apart from her music of course) has been her activism. She is one of those who have tried to change the world, something that has always been almost (but never quite!) impossible – and always absolutely worth it.
I do hope that ‘Universal Trader’ will one day be written out with the music, and even performed. It’s a real achievement.

Zettel at 01:35 on 07 April 2019  Report this post
Me too.  Thanks James

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .