That was the year Muhammad Ali KOed George Foreman to regain the world heavyweight boxing championship; the year Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to the West; the year Evel Knievel failed to jump the Snake River canyon.
It was a year of political upheavals: the year Richard M. Nixon resigned; the year India conducted her first nuclear test; the year Turkey invaded Cyprus and the year Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in Ethiopia.
It was also the year that brought us The Godfather Part 2, Chinatown, and The Great Gatsby.
And let's not forget the music: Streisand sang The Way We Were, Carl Douglas gave us Kung Fu Fighting and Barry White told us that I Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby.
...and then there was a humble, sentimental little anti-war song called Billy, Don't Be A Hero.
Released in the spring of '74, by the group Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, Billy, Don't Be A Hero was an unexpected hit for the band. Recorded in Europe by the group Paper Lace (from Nottingham, England), the lyrics and music were by songwriters/producers Peter Callender and Mitch Murray - but as performed by Danny Loveland and Mike Gibbons of the Heywoods, the song struck gold in the U.S. and world charts, reaching the number 1 spot in most of the Western world (for two weeks in the U.S.). Paper Lace's version spent three weeks at the top of the British charts.
By the end of the year, the success had died down somewhat, and the Heywoods went back to normal (fronting for the Osmonds, and stuff) - but having grossed USD 3.5 million.
Today, the Heywoods are no more. Danny Loveland lives in Bangkok (where he runs the Tex-Mex restaurant Charley Brown's). The band's one hit single, however, continues to get air time all over the world.
Paper Lace went on to record several other hits, though none with the same success. The Night Chicago Died went to the no. 3 spot on the British charts, and Chicago actually reached the top of the U.S. charts briefly.
A remnant of Paper Lace centering on former lead singer Philip Wright, "Phil Wright's Paper Lace" stil performs on the live circuit. Their latest major booking was at the 2004 Netley Pop Festival.
Billy Don't Be A Hero
The marchin' band came down along Main Street
The soldier blues fell in behind
I looked across and there I saw Billy
Waiting to go and join the line
And with her head upon his shoulder
His young and lovely fiancée
From where I stood I saw she was cryin'
And through her tears I heard her say
(chorus) Billy, don't be a hero, don't be a fool with your life
Billy, don't be a hero, come back and make me your wife
And as he started to go she said, Billy, keep your head low
Billy, don't be a hero, come back to me (/chorus)
The soldier blues were trapped on a hillside
The battle raging all around
The sergeant cried, "We've got to hang on, boys!
We've got to hold this piece of ground
I need a volunteer to ride up
And bring us back some extra men"
And Billy's hand was up in a moment
Forgettin' all the words she said
I heard his fiancée got a letter
That told how Billy died that day
The letter said that he was a hero
She should be proud he died that way
I heard she threw that letter away ...