Donna Donna By Joan Baez

Joan Baez

1960 | Folk

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“Calves are easily bound and slaughtered never knowing the reason why but whoever treasures freedom like the swallow has learned to fly."


  • The album Joan Baez hit #15 on the billboard 200 two years after its release.
  • Baez has performed publicly for over 60 years, releasing over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish and English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages.
  • The lyrics were translated once again in the mid-1950s, this time by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz, and the song became well known with their text.
  • "Dona Dona" popularly known as "Donna, Donna" is a song about a calf being led to slaughter written by Sholom Secunda and Aarron Zeitlan.


Luke Tatum

How do we live free lives? What course of action can we take in a tyrannical world, that values us only as a working animal, destined for slaughter? Why, we must stop being cows and become swallows! Calves, after all, "are easily bound and slaughtered." But the mind of a free man can endure no matter the circumstances. As human beings, we can transcend the limitations that seem to bind others.

Sherry Voluntary

Oh how every free thing seems to mock the captive. This haunting song, in this instance sung by Joan Baez, tells the story of a poor little calf being led to slaughter.

“Calves are easily bound and slaughtered/Never knowing the reason why/But whoever treasures freedom/Like the swallow has learned to fly”

I found this song both beautiful and a bit unnerving. I think the message is that if you want to be free and not led to slaughter, then you should be vigilant and circumspect and not allow yourself to get into the position of the calf who realizes too late that it is going to be slaughtered, but rather see potential dangers and flee before you get trapped with no way out.

Nicky P

This song has an interesting history I was completely unaware of. I know of Baez mainly from a mention in passing in the movie The Commitments. The song actually predates Baez and was translated from Yiddish. I imagine the songs talk of freedom fit in well in a world where so many people were fighting for basic freedoms in a world where others seemed to have them in surplus. I reference the civil rights movement obviously, but I also see a perennial quality thst I'm sure the modern Marxist types identify with. They see those with wealth as birds born free and themselves as calves born into bondage. I don't disagree with how they see things. Fate can be a bitch. The laws of economics and human nature care not, though. Wealth is freedom and maximizing it for everyone is a noble cause. Attempting to do so without understanding how economics works will only compound the issue.

Created By
Nicky P