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Urban Legends

"Five to One"

The Legend

In the Doors song "Five to One," the title ratio refers to the number of Viet Cong solders in Vietnam compared to the number of American soldiers.


Behind the Legend

The Doors may have been referred to by their lead singer, Jim Morrison, as political, but often times their music had no politics in it whatsoever. Such is the case with "Five to One" form their Waiting for the Sun album (1968).

"Five to One" was not a Vietnam protest song. In fact, it was written as an audition for the producers of the series of educational animated children's shorts which would become known as Schoolhouse Rock. Along with other bands of the time, The Doors were invited to try their hand at creating educational music, and a close look at the lyrics to "Five to One" reveals that this is exactly what the song if all about.

Five and one, baby;
one and five.
One one here
and five alive.
Now, you add yours, baby,
I'll add mine.
Gonna sum it, baby,
if we try.

The math gets old,
and the problems longer;
may take a week,
and it may take longer.
They got the facts,
and we got the numbers.
Gonna add, yeah,
Check our work over.
Come on!

Your toddler days are over, baby,
school days almost here.
Gonna be in college
in a couple years.
You walk across the floor
abacus in hand,
trying to tell me
you don't understand.
Trade in your answer
for a half-dozen dimes.
Gonna add it, baby,
add the primes.

Unfortunately, Schoolhouse Rock's producers found The Doors' attempt to be both too obscurely written and too limited -- a whole song wasn't needed to discuss the adding of 1 and 5, particularly when the song didn't give the answer in plain language. They instead awarded the lucrative recording contract to Sonny and Cher.

So upset was Jim Morrison about this failure that it haunted him until 1971, at which time he faked his own suicide and went off on his own to work on further educational ventures, culminating in the invention of Hooked on Phonics.


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