So for whatever reason, maybe it was that I read yesterday that the 1968 Democratic National Convention started on August 26th, or maybe it’s just that lately I’ve been thinking about folksingers from the Sixties, but last night I listened to The War is Over: The Best of Phil Ochs. Phil’s music made a big impact on my world and political views in the Sixties and into the 70s, as he did on many of us long-haired types! Probably the first song of Phil’s that caught my attention was “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, but I quickly learned to love them all from “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” to “Rehearsals for Retirement”. Phil’s music always seemed to be with me. The album includes several tracks from his albums on A&M records like Pleasures of the Harbor and Tape From California. Here’s some background from Wikipedia about the album Pleasures of the Harbor:
So on this date in 1940 a folk singer, a protest singer was born who would have a profound effect on my musical library and political leanings – Phil Ochs. Phil radicalize my music library with his topical songs that touched on a variety of topics, none more important to me in the late 60′s than opposition to the war. But there were songs about just about everything, from civil rights, the Kennedy assassination to the sinking of nuclear submarines, Phil sang about them all! Here’s some background information from Wikipedia if you don’t know how Phil is!
Philip David Ochs ( /ˈoʊks/; December 19, 1940 – April 9, 1976) was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and released eight albums in his lifetime.
So last I finally sat down and watched the documentary “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” that my wife gave me for my birthday. The Kenneth Bowser film lives up to all the acclaim it has recieved. Here’s some of the press:
“Excellent! A strong and forceful documentary, beautiful and melodic as well as pointedly political.” – Kenneth Turan Los Angeles Times
“Terrifc! Ochs was an uncomprimising artist who believed in the power of music as a tool for social and political change. His songs provide a stirring soundtrack throughout the film David Rooney The Holywod Reporter
And Phil Ochs music has been a part of the soundtrack of my life for the last 40 plus years! This is a wodnerful telling of the Phil Ochs story from the early days at Ohio State to his last tragic days. His story is told by friends like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Tom Hayden, business associates like Jerry Moss of A&M records and Jen Holtzman of Eektra Records and family members including brother Michael, sister Sonny, wife Alice and daughter Meeghan. As I said the movie chronicals Phil’s life from his early days at Oho State and being turned onto Folk Music byhis roomamate Jim Glover who would later become part of the Folk Duo Jim & Jean and often performed with Phil to his last days when he becane “John Train” And in between it touches on the two issues the formed the basis of his fight for social justice through music the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War.
One of the artist who had a big impact on my early music listening and my overall political beliefs was Phil Ochs. Phil’s songs made you think, made you feel, whether it was about war in songs like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” or how maybe ones liberal beliefs may change the closer things hit to home in “Love Me, Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, or apathy in “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”. There are just too many great Ochs’ songs to list, but here are two of my favorites, “The Flower Lady” and “There But for Fortune” From Tom Paxton’s song Phil about Phil’s suicide in 1976:
Oh, I remember “There But For Fortune”.
There but for fortune you and I would go.
Fortune turned its back on you,
Or so it must have seemed to you,
Christ alone knows what was the final blow.
Friday’s playlist from my four plus mile run!
“Coming Back (Across the Water)” – Bernard Allison – Good track from Luther’s son. Not my favorite album but maybe I should listen again!
“Guantanamo Bay” - David Rovics - my favorite current protest singer. Check out some of his songs like “Who would Jesus Bomb”
Here’s David’s song “New Orleans”:
“Expose” – Guy Clark – good song from the great Guy Clark. First introduced to Clark’s music by Jerry Jeff’s covers of “LA Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train” also covered by Tom Rush. His latest album “Somedays the Song Writes You” was on the player this spring for a long time!
Damn computer kept losing the Internet connection last night, but I may have fixed it with a new splitter! Anyway last night I listened to two albums that I haven’t heard in a long time. The first one was Phil Ochs Rehearsals for Retirement and the second one was John Prine’s Ainless Love .
Phil Ochs came to mind because someone posted the other day on No Depression that we were approaching the 34th anniversary of Phil’s suicide which as actually last night April 9th. The post the other day asked the question, what kind of songs do you think Phil would be writing today? You know it’s not hard to imagine that the songs would be timely, complex and would have been critical of the Bush administration and maybe still too, the Obama administration and the Afghanistan war! Phil’s music is still relevant and there is a teacher here in Riverside, Dan Stellwag, who plays Phil’s music for his students particularly “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” and they love it! Whenever, I see Dan we always talk about Phil’s music. The album Rehearsals for Retirement released in 1969 was Phil’s 6th album, his third on A&M and the first Och’s album I bought. When I bought the album, I was already familiar with Phil’s music, how could any left leaning person in 1969 not be aware of Phil’s music from “White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land” , “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” to “Draft Dodger Rag” Phil was the voice of protest in America! Then throw in great songs like “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Flower Lady” and “There But for Fortune: and you knew Phil was special! As I was thinking about writing about Phil I thought that Phil wrote about and protested like I would have wanted to, and then I thought, hey, weren’t you tear gassed and didn’t you have the fire hose’s turned on you as you joined a protest after the mining of the Haiphong Harbor in 1972, and didn’t you march for increased black enrollment at University of Florida. Yes, I did, Phil thanks for the inspiration!