Peter La Farge’s ” Ira Hayes”

My name is Biagio and I am a librarian here at the Yonkers Public Library.

I am passionate about music.


Ira Hayes was a PIMA Native American and U.S marine Corporal who participated in the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima.  Hayes was actually one of the 6 solders who raised the U.S flag at Iwo Jima.  The moment was captured by the associated press photograph of that event, which became one the most famous battle photos of all time.

Unfortunately for Hayes, he struggled acclimating to life after the war, succumbing to alcoholism at the age of 32. 

However, his memory lives on due to a song written and performed by folksinger Peter La Farge in the early 1960s.  That song is called, well. “Ira Hayes.”

La Farge was born in New York in 1931, and moved to Colorado with his mom after his parents divorced.  His mom had distant ties to the Native American community while his dad was a scholar of Native American studies who carried on a campaign throughout his life to better the lives of the Native American people.   La Farge would take up his father’s crusade, using songs.

By the early 1960’s La Farge was living in New York City and performed as a folk singer.  It was during this time that he presented and began performing his song ” Ira Hayes.”  He ended up signing a record deal with Columbia Records, as well with Folkways Records later on. Bob Dylan once said of La Farge that he “was best at (protest songs)…”

La Farge died in 1965 at the age of 34.   Before his death, he was befriended by Johnny Cash, who in 1964 went on to release an album of mostly penned La Farge songs called Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.  The album peaked at number two on the Billboard country album chart and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” hit number 3 on the country singles chart.      

Here at the Yonkers Public Library we do carry Cash’s Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.  You should check it out and listen to “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.”

I will leave you with La Farge’s original version, and please learn of Ira Hayes.