Phil Ochs was under-appreciated during his lifetime but, over 30 years since his death, he is still cited by many as being an influence on their music, their politics and their careers. A contemporary and friend of Bob Dylan, although Phil never achieved the commercial success he craved, he led a generation through probably the most politically turbulent decade the world has ever seen.
Ultimately, Phil's internal turbulence proved too much for him, but he left us with a legacy of songs which are as relevant today, as they were when they were first written, 45 years ago.
For more information about Phil, please read the biography.
Phil Ochs Inspires Us Still
The Welsh Connection - Huw Spink
Phil Ochs and Wales.
Two of my favourite things.
Apart from a shared love of song and poetry they don’t have much in common.
But there is at least one connection, and lucky for us, it’s a good one!
In 1965 Phil introduced a new song to Bob Fass on his Radio Unnameable radio show.
“Well…OK, I was over there in England and a couple of times I played in Wales, in Swansea and Cardiff, while in Swansea I woke up in this strange house and started talking to this girl and reading poetry all morning, reading William Butler Yeats. And we took off, we had to go back to London. While driving back it was like being visited by the muse. I was very much artistically aroused, by Yeats, or struggling to try and understand Yeats. So I got this idea for a song from that aesthetic in the air of the car. This is called Songs Of My Returning and its about how you go through life doing whatever you are doing then at certain points you return to your love, whatever your love is, or even different loves, but always to the feeling of love, and tell your love what you’ve learned or how you’ve changed.”-
I nearly fell off my chair when I first heard a recording of this.
The excellent Ken Bowser documentary Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is scheduled to be shown as a part of the "American Masters" series on Monday 23rd January.
Times vary, according to location, but tend to be in the late evening. Check your local PBS schedules for full details.
The American Masters series has long proved popular with PBS viewers, and will bring Phil's life and music to a much wider audience than at present. Recent years have seen something of a mini-renaissance on Phil's contribution to popular culture, and the 1960s in particular.
It's somewhat ironic that getting Phil and his music on mainstream TV is easier today, during a rise in ultra-conservative thinking, than it ever was during his lifetime.
By Huw Spink
"They smash down your doors, they don't bother to knock / They've done this before, so why all the shock?"
One of the constant joys of Phil’s songs is the amount of historical detail they include. Even a relatively simple song such as ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore’ takes us from the Battle of New Orleans through the trenches of the First World War to give some context to the horrors of the battles raging in Vietnam.
The weight of history unpinning so many of his songs is echoed in even a brief investigation into the the experiences of his family and their contemporaries and perhaps helps to explain why fighting against war and injustice became so important to him.
Phil’s father Jacob’s parents’ families both left the northern Polish town of Mława and settled in New York City’s Lower East Side. The long Jewish history of Mława is riddled with persecution, documented beautifully in 1949 by Dr. Ze’ev Jonis in his work Jewish Mława; It’s History, Development, Destruction. He tells of a segregated existence between Jews and Gentiles, interspersed with periods of hostility. He tells of early Jewish communities having no say at all in the running of the town, before slowly gaining influence. The Russian rule from 1795 became ever more anti-Semitic, the anti-Semitism which must have been a major factor in Jacob Ochs’ parents migration to the USA.
Christopher Hitchens, radical left-wing commentator of the 60s and 70s, later radical right right-wing commentator, and long-time Phil Ochs fan has died of cancer at the age of 62.
Written by Huw Spink
OCH/Dk,Dx/Interjection(Scot. And Anglo-Irish)Expr. Regret, irritation etcFrom The Shorter English Dictionary
In an interview with Izzy Young in 1968 at the Folklore Centre in New York City after his return from the chaos and trauma of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, (in the interview during which Phil stated “I’ve always tried to hang onto the idea of saving the country, but at this point I could be persuaded to destroy it”) Phil was asked;
“…But how can you be an enemy of America in America? What can you do? Sabotage?”
To which Phil answered;
Our friend David Rovics has released a new album. Here are the details from the official site..Big Red Sessions is now on CD. It is, in my humble opinion, the best recording I've ever made, both in terms of the selection of songs as well as the execution, with a stellar cast of musicians playing with me there in the Oregon woods at Big Red Studios. You can buy the CD for $10 (plus shipping costs) via my online store, where you'll also find a new, updated Combo Pack -- 8 CDs for $50, including Big Red Sessions. You can go to -
www.davidrovics.com and click on "buy stuff" or go to -
www.theconnextion.com/davidrovics to get there directly.
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Trent's Phil Ochs Page
Life of a Rebel
Phil Ochs: The Movie
Counter Punch on Phil
Other Phil Ochs Links