Though it was set to a jolly Dixieland tune, "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" was one of the more scathing anti-Vietnam war protest songs, its gallows humor poking serious fun at the conflict's tragicomedy. Heirs of Kid Ory claimed it plagiarized the New Orleans jazz trombonist's 1927 song "Muskrat Ramble," though courts ruled in composer Country Joe McDonald's favor. As for the infamous "Gimme an F!" four-letter-word cheer that launched the song in the Woodstock film, McDonald told Rolling Stone, "We just got tired of saying 'fish,' so we just changed it."
This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”