Remembering Journalist William Worthy (1921-2014) Democracy Now and “The Ballad of William Worthy” – Phil Ochs (videos)

Willliam WorthyThis morning when I went out to run some errands I took the iPod with me and set it on shuffle songs.Phil Ochs‘ song “The Ballad of William Worthy” came on about in the middle of the trip. Since Mr Worthy died on the 4th of last month (May),  I’ll take the playing of the song as a sign that I should take a few moments to reflect on the life of a very important journalist that we should all know a little more about!!

William Worthy was born in Boston on July 7, 1921. He received a B.A. degree in sociology from Bates College, Lewiston, Maine, in 1942 and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, class of 1957. He went on to become a thorn in side of the US government as journalist, civil rights activist, and dissident who pressed his right to travel regardless of U.S. State Department regulations. Go William Worthy!!! From Wikipedia:

Worthy traveled to China (1956–57) and Cuba (1961) in violation of United States State Department travel regulations. At the time he entered China, Worthy was the first American reporter to visit and broadcast from there since the country’s communist revolution in 1949.[2] While in China Worthy interviewed Samuel David Hawkins, an American soldier who was captured by the Chinese during the Korean War and defected to China in 1953.[3] His passport was seized upon his return to the U.S. from China and American lawyers Leonard Boudin and William Kunstler represented Worthy in an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking the return of his passport. Without a passport, Worthy traveled to Cuba in the early days of Fidel Castro to report on the Cuban revolution, and upon his return to the U.S. he was tried and convicted for “returning to the United States without a valid passport.” Worthy was again represented by Kunstler, who successfully persuaded a federal appeals court to overturn Worthy’s conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found the restrictions unconstitutional. The court held that the government could not make it a crime under the Constitution to return home without a passport. Read More

When I went to Youtube to search for videos of the Phil Ochs song “The Ballad of William Worthy” I spotted this video titled “The Most Important Journalist You’ve Never Heard Of”: Remembering William Worthy (1921-2014) It’s a great piece from Democracy Now! highlighting Worthy’s trip to Iran after the end of the 1979 hostage crisis. The piece provides some highlights of the return trip when according to Wikipedia….

…..the luggage of Worthy and two other journalists working with him, Terri Taylor and Randy Goodman, was seized by the FBI and CIA on their return from Iran; and they subsequently won a suit on Fourth Amendment grounds.

I was familiar with the trips to Cuba and China in the 60s, but wasn’t really aware of this trip, so the Democracy Now! piece was quite interesting, take about ten minutes to watch the segment, it’s well worth it..

One person who obviously was quite aware of Mr. Worthy’s exploits, at least in the 60s, was Phil Ochs. Phil in his song “The Ballad of William Worthy” does a good job of pointing out the hypocrisy of the government at times, when it comes to freedom. Phil often pointed out that trait in his song, he even aimed his taunts at his fellow “liberals” in the song “Love Me, Love Me I’m a Liberal” So here is “The Ballad of William Worthy” And Mister Worthy – Thanks!

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May 21, 1968 – Last Contact from the USS Scorpion that never returns…..(Phil Ochs Video)

Uss_scorpion_SSN589May 21, 1968 the last signals from the United States’ nuclear submarine USS Scorpion were heard. From shortly before midnight on the 20th of May through midnight on the 21st the Scorpion tried to send radio traffic to the Naval Station in Rota Spain, but was only able to reach a Naval communications station in Nea Makri, Greece. These messages were forwarded to SUBPLANT. Six Days later the submarine was reported overdue at Norfolk.


Bow section of the sunken Scorpion containing two nuclear torpedoes on the sea floor. US Navy photo.

Scorpion and her crew were declared “presumed lost” on 5 June. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 30 June. The public search continued with a team of mathematical consultants led by Dr. John Piña Craven, the Chief Scientist of the U.S. Navy’s Special Projects Division. They employed the methods of Bayesian search theory, initially developed during the search for a hydrogen bomb lost off the coast of Palomares, Spain, in January 1966 in the Palomares B-52 crash.
Some reports indicate that a large and secret search was launched three days before Scorpion was expected back from patrol; this, combined with other declassified information, leads to speculation that the US Navy knew of the Scorpion’s destruction before the public search was launched.[8]
At the end of October 1968, the Navy’s oceanographic research ship, Mizar, located sections of the hull of Scorpion on the seabed, about 740 km (400 nmi; 460 mi) southwest of the Azores,[9] under more than 3,000 m (9,800 ft) of water. This was after the Navy had released sound tapes from its underwater
Although Craven received much credit for locating the wreckage of Scorpion, Gordon Hamilton—an acoustics expert who pioneered the use of hydroacoustics to pinpoint Polaris missile splashdown locations—was instrumental in defining a compact “search box” wherein the wreck was ultimately found. Hamilton had established a listening station in the Canary Islands, which obtained a clear signal of what some scientists believe was the noise of the vessel’s pressure hull imploding as she passed below crush depth. A Naval Research Laboratory scientist named Chester “Buck” Buchanan, using a towed camera sled of his own design aboard Mizar, finally located Scorpion.[9] The towed camera sled, which was fabricated by J. L. “Jac” Hamm of Naval Research Laboratory’s Engineering Services Division, is housed in the U.S. Navy Museum. Buchanan had located the wrecked hull of Thresher in 1964 using this technique. Read More

REHEARSALS (1)Now you may ask, what’s this have to do with music?? of my first Phil Ochs albums was his 1969 release Rehearsals for Retirement released after the very tumultuous 1968, which saw two assassinations, the raging war in Vietnam, a riotous Democratic National Convention along with the loss of the Scorpion. Phil chronicled the loss of the Scorpion with the song “The Scorpion Departs and Never Returns” So let’s go “into the night” with a great YouTube video for the song from Nicky Ziggy

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This Day in Music – April 9, 1976 – The Music World lost Phil Ochs – Gone, Gone, Gone by his own hand


Today is a day that many of us old folkies mourn the loss of Phil Ochs. From the first time that I heard “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” I was a fan! He was such a brilliant songwriter and social commentator, his albums were all worn out on my record players! His music, along with Tom Paxton and John Prine, had the most impact on my musical life, as well as, political life! On today’s date in 1976, Phil hung himself and the folk music world mourned!

From Wikipedia:

Philip David Ochs (pron.: /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.

Ochs performed at many political events, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.[1] Continue Reading

After several months of identifying himself as John Butler Train and saying that Train had killed Phil Ochs…

….Ochs returned, but his talk of suicide disturbed his friends and family. They hoped it was a passing phase, but Ochs was determined.[106] One of his biographers explains Ochs’s motivation:

By Phil’s thinking, he had died a long time ago: he had died politically in Chicago in 1968 in the violence of the Democratic National Convention; he had died professionally in Africa a few years later, when he had been strangled and felt that he could no longer sing; he had died spiritually when Chile had been overthrown and his friend Victor Jara had been brutally murdered; and, finally, he had died psychologically at the hands of John Train.[107]

In January 1976, Ochs moved to Far Rockaway, New York, to live with his sister Sonny. He was lethargic; his only activities were watching television and playing cards with his nephews. Ochs saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed his bipolar disorder. He was prescribed medication, and he told his sister he was taking it.[108] On April 9, 1976, Ochs hanged himself

From – Wikipedia

Now I could play one of any of Phil’s terrific song, but I found this video this morning and, well, I’ll let Tom Paxton tell you about Phil’s suicide.


A Night for Musical Poetry from Phi Ochs “The Highway Man” and “Changes”!!

So tonight I’m in the mood for a little poetry and that means Phil Ochs’ version of “The Highwayman”!! Here’s a short post from about a year ago!

Phil OchsHere  are  two Phil Ochs’ songs. The first is “The Highwayman” based on the poem by Alfred Noyes, from the program “Come, Read to Me a Poem” which appeared on April 12, 1967. This sad and beautiful poem has always been a favorite, Phil did a great job putting the music to the poem and creating a captivating and sad song!

The second is Phil’s own composition “Changes” and it showcases his poetic talents, so much more than just a protest singer!