"Billy Don't Be A Hero" is a 1974 anti - war song by Paper Lace and was also recorded by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. It was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callender.
Because the song was released in 1974, it is often associated with the Vietnam War, though it actually refers to the American Civil War as evidenced by the "soldier blues" (the Union Forces) in the lyrics and on the cover of the single album. Also, A 1974 music video shows the band performing in Union uniforms. A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to leave the area with an Army contingent passing through the town and go with them to fight. She laments,
- "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 Billy started to go, she said, 'Keep your pretty head low!'
- "Billy, don't be a hero! Come back to me!"
The song goes on to describe how Billy is killed in action in a pitched battle after volunteering to ride out and seek reinforcements. In the end, the woman throws away the regret letter notifying her of Billy's "heroic" death.
Paper Lace's version of "Billy Don't Be a Hero" hit number one on the UK singles' chart on March 16 1974. The band made plans to release it in America but the song was covered and released by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. Their version was rushed out before Paper Lace could release and it hit no 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. on June 15. Subsequently although Paper Lace had the chart-topper in the UK, its version stalled at #96 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Bo Donaldson version failed to chart at all in the UK.