Phil Ochs - The Man, The Myth
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194612191976The Man, the Myth, the Legacy- Phil Ochs Phil Ochs was a beloved folksinger of the 1960’s and 70’s. He was known for his prolific folk songs that gave a voice to the disenfranchised protesters of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights era. His passion for politics as well as many other factors led to a dark relationship with alcohol and his untimely suicide in 1976. His legacy lives on because of his contributions to music as well as his political activism that gave the soundtrack to a movement. Ochs outside the offices of the National Student Association in Washington, DC.Chip Bertlet, 1975.title#808080
194619581946-1958The Early YearsBorn on December 19th, 1946, Phil and his family moved around frequently due to his father's military position. He spent some of his time in Far Rockaway, New York as well as many other places. Surprisingly, given his antipathy for war and the draft, Ochs attended a military school as a teen, which was where his musical talent was first noted (Schumacher 20, 23–24). antique postcard image of one of Och's many hometowns. he message on the back reads, "The beach is the finest here of any place I have been this year."S. Hirshberg, 1913#808080
195819621958-1962The Ohio State YearsOSU Campus, circa 1961.Taken from the Makio Yearbook, 1961
1962119661962-1966The New York City YearsDietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “New York City (New York, USA), Empire State Building -- 2012 -- 6448 (bw)” / CC BY-SA 4.0Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “New York City (New York, USA), Empire State Building -- 2012 -- 6448 (bw)” / CC BY-SA 4.0
197019701970Elvis meets Che GuavaraPhil reinvents himself as a cross between politico and pop singer. art, A&M Records, 1975title#B7950B
1971119751971-1975Traveling YearsAfter a trying period that included the DNC debacle, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, and the election of arch conservative Richard Nixon, Ochs took a break from America. in conjunction with the Phil Ochs Fan Club of Canada. Originally released only in Africa by A & M Records (1973Album Art, A&M Records, 1973#633974
197519761975-1976The End ... Is the Beginning#283747
1967119691967 - 1969Move to Los AngelesIn 1967, Phil Ochs made the move to Los Angeles, California after having signed a deal with A&M Records, where he was now managed by his brother Michael. He would remain in California until 1969 and record four distinct studio albums: <i>Pleasures of the Harbor</i> (1968), <i>Tape from California</i> (1968), <i>Rehearsals for Retirement</i> (1969), and <i>Greatest Hits</i> (1970). It was during this time that his music would go through a major shift from simple acoustic melodies (as in 1965's "<a href="" target="_blank">Draft Dodger Rag</a>") to ensemble and orchestral tracks designed to create “hits”. Consider the pop-infused piano melodies of 1967's “<a href="" target="_blank">Outside of a Small Circle of Friends</a>,” for example. Despite these efforts, Phil's time in California would not result in more critical or public acclaim, and only “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” would receive popularity. It was also during this time that he would help in the creation of the Youth International Party or the “<a href="" target="_blank">Yippies</a>” ( Schumacher, pp. 129–130, 134). Public Transit Bus running from Los Angeles to Long Beach in 1966. The photo is by Gordon F. Smith's parents.Photograph by Gordon F. Smith's Parents#808000
1967419671967Album: Pleasures of the HarborPhil Ochs’ fourth studio album, <i>Pleasures of the Harbor</i> was released in 1967 as the first project through A&M Records. It is considered to be one of the more personal albums by Ochs due to some of the associations made within the songs. Unlike previous albums, <i>Pleasures of the Harbor</i> was ruled by a pop-folk hybrid of experimental classical music and synthesized rock. Although the most popular track on the album is “<a href="" target="_blank">Outside of a Small Circle of Friends</a>," which was influenced by the Murder of Kitty Genovese, it was the inclusion of “The Crucifixion” that showcased the personal touch of Ochs on the album. During the song, he relates the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a way to criticize the public’s idolization as destructive."The Crucifixion," <i>Pleasures of the Harbor</i>. A&M Records, 1967.Youtube,
196721967-1975WAR IS OVER! (If You Want It)Many activists and artists began to announce the war was over prior to the actual end of the war as a form of protest. Ochs was one of the originators of the idea and wrote the song "<a href="" target="_blank">The War is Over</a>" to accompany the sentiment, which became one of his most notable songs (Schumacher 142). remark at the billboard featuring the slogan "War is Over (If You Want It)" posted by John Lennon & Yoko Ono to protest the ongoing Vietnam War.Photo by William Sauro/The New York Times Photo Archives. #808000
1967319751967- 1975War is Over RalliesOchs lead multiple <a href=""> "War is Over Rallies" </a> over a period of years until the Vietnam War was finally over in 1975. He debuted his song "The War is Over" at the Los Angeles rally in 1967; the protest came to a quick and decisive end when the police, unprovoked, charged the crowd and began arresting attendees. The second protest coincided with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and inspired men to burn their draftcards. The final "War is Over" protest took place at the actual end of the war in 1975 (Schumacher 170, 172-173, 305-306). hold signs to bring an end to the Vietnam War Frank Wolfe, October 21, 1967 #808000
196819681968The Democratic National Convention in Chicago In Chicago, during the <a href="">Democratic National Convention</a>, the Yippie movement staged theatrical protests in Lincoln Park. The group was founded by <a href="" target="_blank">Abbie Hoffman</a> and <a href="" target="_blank"> Jerry Rubin </a>, but Ochs was highly involved in their efforts and planning. Ochs performed in Lincoln Park during the protest and paid for the pig they bought to nominate as their Presidential candidate, <a href="" target="_blank"> Pigasus</a>. The protests were violently broken up by the Police and several people were arrested, including Ochs who <a href="" target="_blank">testified in support of his friends during the trial that followed</a>. The event had a lasting effect on Ochs as he lamented he spiritually died in Chicago that week. His album, <a href="" target="_blank">Rehersals for Retirement</a> featured a tombstone for Ochs, which indicated his death happened in Chicago, Illinois 1968. violence at Chicago DNC, 1968Getty Images. Taken from <a href="" target="_blank">History Stories</a>#808000
Mental Break
Upon returning from overseas, Ochs became a husk of his former self. He began turning to the comforts of alcohol to ease his physical and emotional pain and soon developed an addiction. The drinking negatively interacted with his bipolar disorder and depression, which led to the manifestation of his alter ego, John Butler Train. Train claimed to have "murdered" Phil Ochs who, in Train's words, “Drank too much and was becoming a boring old fart. Train's personality was drastically different from Ochs's; he was aggressive, paranoid, and often carried weapons ranging from knives and hammers to pipes. Train also severed connections with Ochs' friends, who were worried about him. Ochs did eventually return - but he was never the same. In his last public appreance, he looked sick, tired and exhausted. of John Butler Train in the documentary <i>There But For Fortune</i>; relevant portion begins around 1 hour 13 min. Dir. Kenneth Bowser, "There But For Fortune," <i>American Masters</i>. PBS, 2011#283747
1964119641964Album: All the News That's Fit to SingIn 1964, Phil Ochs released his first official album. Released on <a href="" target="_blank">Elektra Records</a>, <a href="'s_Fit_to_Sing" target="_blank">All the News That’s Fit to Sing</a> was conceptualized as a singing newspaper. The name played off the <a href="" target="_blank">New York Times</a> motto “All the news that’s fit to print” and told the tales of hardship of the early sixties. The many topics covered in the album include the <a href="" target="_blank">Cuban Missile Crisis</a> in <a href="" target="_blank">“Talkin' Cuban Crisis”</a>, the murders of <a href="" target="_blank">Medgar Evers</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Emmett Till</a> in <a href="" target="_blank">“Too Many Martyrs”</a>, and poor wages for workers in <a href="" target="_blank">"Automation Song”</a>. One of his most covered songs, <a href="" target="_blank">“Power and the Glory”</a>, is a patriotic anthem about the United States. The most notable song on the album is <a href="" target="_blank">“Talkin' Vietnam”</a> as it was the first song to explicitly name Vietnam and the criticize the <a href="" target="_blank">war</a>. art, Elektra Records, 1964.Photo by William S. Harvey#000000
197621976April 9, 1976When I'm GoneOchs was not diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until January 1976. By then, he had given up his musical endeavors and was in a deep depressive state. His struggle with Bipolar Disorder ended on April 9th, 1976 when Ochs completed suicide at age 36. Like many social activists and musicians of his time, his life and legacy were cut short due to incomplete mental health treatment. is a section of audio from a podcast on Phil Ochs. The full version can be found on Soundcloud by searching "Okies Discussing Ochs".Audio by Amanda Lowe and Olivia Cotter#283747
1965119651965Album: I Ain't Marching AnymoreRecorded in 1964 and released in 1965, this album provides a mix of topical protest songs and musical renditions of famous poets admired by Phil. Ochs’ second studio album, <i>I Ain’t Marching Anymore</i> introduced the listener to several influential ideas about the state of the United States at the time including: “<a href="" target="_blank">I Ain’t Marching Anymore</a>” (a song about the rising conflict in Vietnam), “<a href="" target="_blank">Draft Dodger Rag</a>” (a song exploring the many ways men found to get out of the draft), “<a href="" target="_blank">That Was The President</a>” ( a post-assassination tribute to JFK), “<a href="" target="_blank">The Ballad of the Carpenter</a>” (a cover of Scottish folk singer Ewan MacColl’s song), and “<a href="" target="_blank">Here’s to the State of Mississippi</a>” (about which see the previous slide). This album helped Ochs establish himself within the folk music genre and several of the songs from this album continue to be some of Ochs’ most notable. of title song, "I Ain't Marching Anymore"#000000
196431964-1976The FBIThe <a href="" target="_blank">FBI</a> interest in Phil Ochs originated with the suspicion that he was communist or a communist sympathizer. Ochs first came on the radar of the FBI when he wrote about Woody Guthrie, also a suspected communist. Ochs’s article “The Guthrie Legacy” appeared in Mainstream in 1964. Their interest quickly waned only to be piqued again in 1968 with the <a href="" target="_blank" >Democratic National Convention</a>. At that time, Ochs was part of the <a href="" target="_blank">Youth International Party</a> (also known as the Yippies). After this, the FBI regained interest in Phil, tracking his movements until his death eight years laters. <a href="
" target="_blank">You can see the FBI Files here.</a> of the Federal Bureau of InvestigationUnited States Federal Government#000000
1966319661966Album: Phil Ochs In ConcertIn 1966, Phil Ochs released his alblum <i>Phil Ochs in Concert</i>. Despite the title, the album was not, in fact, a collection of live performances but a series of recordings that created the <i>illusion</i> of performance--with cheering and clapping interlaid between tracks. This was also a double sided album with Side A having songs like "<a href="" target="_blank">Bracero</a>" and "<a href="" target="_blank">Is There Anybody Here?</a>" while side B had famous songs such as "<a href="" target="_blank">There But Fortune</a>" and "<a href="" target="_blank">Love Me, I'm a Liberal.</a>", Phil Ochs in Concert, 1966.Phil Ochs. Bracero. Elektra Records, YouTube,
196311960sRise of Folk Music Topical folk music has been a tool for marginalized people to get their stories out to the community for many generations. Phil Ochs joined the ranks of folk protest singers in the 1960s, after seeing first hand the fight for Civil Rights and the struggle to end the war in Vietnam. Topical protest music is ever-changing, morphing with society to stay relevant. Folk music allowed Phil to use his journalism skills and call out injustices around him.Other notable topical protest singers of the time included: <a href="" target="_blank">Bob Dylan</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Joan Baez</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Pete Seeger</a>. While Ochs, Dylan, Baez and Seeger all developed their careers and impacted folk music in the same era and within the same social circles, they didn’t always get along. Ochs and Dylan had a sordid past, with the two of them not speaking for several years, after a disagreement over lyrics Dylan had written. See the video for more info. short video discusses the dynamics between Phil Ochs and Bob DylanJoshua Davidson#000000
196231960sThe Political ClimateThe 1960s saw the emergence of the anti-war, civil rights, labor rights and women's rights movements, among others. Such activism brought new strategy, experiences and voices to the front lines and made civil disobedience a regular part of civic life. The urgent and passionate work of young conscientious objectors, feminists, musicians, artists, and more gave traction to marginalized groups who had not previously been given a platform to express their experiences or press for change. This political shift inspired many people to work for personal and political liberation, among them Phil Ochs. Inspired by things he read in the newspaper or saw on the streets of New York, his time in Mississippi, and international traveling, Ochs used his musical and journalistic talents to project messages of equality and call out those who were actively working against it. created by Amanda Lowe. All photos used under collective commons guidelines.#000000
197032719701970Live at Carnegie HallOchs played two shows in the same night at Carnegie Hall which were recorded for intended release as a live album. The first set went poorly when Ochs covered a string of melodies made famous by Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard. The audience was confused and booed him. Ochs adjusted for the second set and explained to the audience why he was playing the songs. Ochs told the audience he had died in Chicago and God gave him a chance to return to the world as anyone he would like. Ochs told the audience he chose to be Elvis. He went on to say if there was any hope for America it "<b>relies on getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara.</b>" The second set was much more well-received than the first. The live album was not officially released in the United States until after Ochs' death. <a href="" target="_blank">You can hear it here.</a> Ochs, New York City, 1970.Concert Poster, courtesy of
20182018ResourcesBowser, Kenneth, Dir. <i>There But For Fortune</i>. <i>American Masters</i>, PBS, 2011<p> Cunningham, Sis, and Gordon Friesen. <i>Red Dust and Broadsides: A Joint Autobiography</i>. Edited by Ronald D. Cohen, University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.<p>DeLeon, David. <i>Leaders from the 1960s: A Biographical Sourcebook of American Activism</i>. Greenwood Press, 1994.<p> Doughty, Howard. “Phil Ochs: No Place in This World.” <i>College Quarterly</i>, vo. 8, no. 3, 2005, Accessed 2 May 2018.<p> Friedman, Stacia. “Remembering Phil Ochs and a Revolution Interrupted.” <i>WHYY</i>, 18 Apr. 20<p> <p> Harvey, Ryan. “When Bolivia Tried to Murder a US Folk Legend.” Blogs | TeleSUR English, TeleSUR, 9 Apr. 2015,<p>Meiman, Kathryn L. "What's that I Hear? : Domestic Surveillance and Counter-Intelligence on Antiwar Musicians in the 1960s" (2007). Theses and Dissertations, Paper 982: Phil Ochs.<p> “Phil Ochs Biography [Press Release]" <i>THIRTEEN</i>,<p> “Phil Ochs.” <i>Wikipedia</i>, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 May 2018,<p>Schumacher, Michael. <i>There But For Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs</i>. Hyperion, 1996.<p> Waters, Thomas C. “All the News That's Fit to Sing: Phil Ochs, Vietnam, and the National Press.” Georgia Southern University, Digital Commons at Georgia Southern, 2016, pp 1–100.#283747
1963219641963A Boost from Broadside<a href="">Broadside</a> was a magazine created by Agnes Cunningham and her husband, Gordon. They published new songs of many upcoming folk artists, including Phil Ochs. Even though Broadside was often operated on a “shoestring” budget, it helped many upcoming artists, distributing songs all throughout the country and it helped artists like Phil become influential. Throughout 1963, nearly all of Broadside’s issues contained one or more of Och’s songs. He became a regular ‘Broadsider’ and even attended their monthly meetings. Phil Ochs developed lasting friendships through Broadside, continuing to visit his fellow ‘Broadsiders’ even after he moved to California., Issue #36. Singout.org #000000
1971219711971Seeking Hope in ChileIn 1971, Ochs traveled to Chile where Salvador Allende had recently become the first Marxist to win a democratic election to lead a Latin American country. There he met and befriended folk singer and labor activist <a href="" target="_blank">Victor Jara</a>. Later that year, Ochs and his friend David Ifshin were arrested in Uruguay after performing at a concert in support of striking miners. They were held overnight and interrogated, then flown to Bolivia. Having been warned that prisoners tended to "disappear" in Bolivia, Ochs and Ishfin refused to leave the plane, which sat on the tarmac for several hours surrounded by military vehicles. The pilot assured them the Bolivian government could not board an American aircraft, and eventually the vehicles withdrew, allowing the plane to take off. They escaped unharmed, but were understandably rattled by the events. Jara, Chilean protest singer and friend of Phil Ochs #633974
1973119731973Targeted in AfricaAfter escaping South America, Ochs traveled to Africa. In Kenya, he recorded a single called “<a href="" target="_blank">Bwatue</a>.” This song was translated and sung in the native African language, Lingala. During his travels through Tanzania, Ochs was attacked, strangled and mugged. His vocal cords were damaged as a result, and he lost the higher ends of his vocal range. In a sign of his growing paranoia, Ochs was convinced the attack was instigated by the CIA."Bwatue," by Phil Ochs and The Pan African Ngembo Rumba Band, 1973.
1973219731973Devastating NewsOn September 11, 1973, a <a href="" target="_blank">CIA-backed military coup in Chile</a> overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende. Victor Jara and many other influential teachers, poets, and songwriters were rounded up, tortured, and killed. The news of this devastated Oshs, and combined with his damaged vocal cords, led to his downfall into severe depression. Ochs didn’t just lose a friend, he lost hope in humanity. But not ready to completely give up, he organized a benefit concert in New York City, called “An Evening with Salvador Allende.” This concert featured many artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Pete Seeger, as well as a reading of <a href="" target="_blank">Allende’s final speech</a>. Allende and Jara’s widows attended the concert. about Phil Ochs, Victor Jara, and Chile (taken from GRITtv rebroadcast)Originall from: Ken Bowser, <i>Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune</i>. First Run Features, 2010#633974
1976121976-2000'sLasting LegacyForty years have passed since Phil Ochs’s death, and his music is still relevant today. His legacy lives on through his surviving relatives and through the labors of his fans and performers throughout the world, who still cover his music. In 2009, the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance awarded Phil the Elaine Weissman Lifetime Achievement Award. His songs have been covered by numerous performers (see next), and tributes began as early as 1978 when Tom Paxton recorded a song titled “Phil” for his album <i>Heroes</i>. On his 1990 album, <i>The Internationale</i>, Irish folk rocker Billy Bragg recorded the song “I Dreamed of Phil Ochs Last Night”, and in 1993 Latin Quarter sang about him in their song “Phil Ochs” on their album <i>Long Pig</i>. The documentary film <i>Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune</i> premiered at the 2010 Woodstock Film Festival, and in 2014 his daughter, Meegan Ochs, donated her father's archive to the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK, further cementing her father’s legacy. during a 1967 Vietnam protest outside the United Nations Building, NY (Photo by Michael Ochs).Taken from Richard Just, "<a href="" target="_blank">Why Phil Ochs is the obscure '60s folk singer America needs in 2017</a>." Washington Post 24 January 2017#283747
Staunton Military Academy
Given his general anti-war sentiments, it's odd but true that Ochs attended the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia in his early years. He graduated in 1958 as a seargent. Advertisement for the AcademyWalter Hines, 1916.#808080
1960119621960 - 1962JournalismAs a journalism major at Ohio State Univesity Ochs wrote for The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper. At this time, he was adopting new liberal, political positions which made their way into his writings. Ochs spent much of his time studying newspapers and learning as much as he could about the current sociopolitical happenings, the result was raw and unapologetic journalism. His articles started to take on a controversial tone and editors cautioned Ochs to monitor his opinions. He became frustrated and needed a place to share his seemingly radical ideologies. This led to the creation of his own newspaper, The Word, which he distributed to students in Steeb Hall. Article Written by Phil Ochs for the Ohio State University LanternCourtesy of Ohio State University - Universites Libraries Digital Archives #800000
196021960Friendship with Jim GloverJim Glover and Phil Ochs met at Ohio State, eventually becoming roommates on campus at Steeb Hall. The two initially bonded over music. Glover, who was fond of folk singers like <a href="" target="_blank">Woody Guthrie</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Pete Seeger</a>, kindled Ochs’ love for folk music. A very influential person in Och's life at this time, Glover motivated the change that turned Ochs from a journalism major to a folk singer. Ochs won his first guitar as result of a bet with Glover on the Kennedy/Nixon election. Glover eventually taught Ochs how to play. Hall at Ohio State University Courtesy of Ohio State University - Universites Libraries Digital Archives#800000
19611961The Singing Socialists (a.k.a The Sundowners) and Early Solo Career Ochs and Glover started a band called The Singing Socialists, later called the Sundowners. Their first song,"The Bay of Pigs," was written by Ochs. A falling out led to the end of The Sundowners, a short-lived endeavor. Glover and Ochs parted ways— Glover dropped out of university and moved to the folk scene’s up and coming neighborhood of New York City—Greenwich Village. Ochs continued to pursue his music career in Ohio as a solo artist. older Gibson J-50 guitar, similar to the one Ochs played in his early career.Henry Zbyszynski, 2009

196221962The Move to New York Ochs continued to write for <i>The Lantern</i> while pursuing music, he hoped to become editor-in-chief. When he didn’t get the position, he dropped out in the last quarter of his senior year and headed to Greenwich Village. There he found Jim Glover who was now married. Jim and his wife Jean offered Ochs a place to stay.
Ochs took his time finding work, and Jim and Jean began to feel cramped sharing their tiny apartment with him. Jean’s solution was to introduce him to a woman. That woman was Alice Skinner, a young acting student who lived upstairs. The two begin to date; Ochs eventually moved in upstairs, and soon they were married. Village - New York, NY
Tom Marcello
1964219641964The Mississippi Caravan of MusicThe project was created by folklorist Robert (Bob) Cohen. <a href="" target="_blank">Cohen described the Caravan
,as "a cultural arm of the <a href="" target="_blank">Mississippi Freedom Project</a>
." Ochs’ experience in Mississippi inspired him to write the song "Here’s to the State of Mississippi,” a civil rights anthem released in 1965 as the last track on his album <i>I Ain't Marching Anymore</i>. The song criticizes Mississippi and other states in the South for their oppression of African Americans. <a href="" target="_blank">Jim Crow laws</a>
and white supremacy fueled an imbalance in the civil structure of the state. Specifically, it condemns <a href="" target="_blank">Jim Crow laws</a> and white supremacy, and denounces issues like violence, segregation, corrupt and biased school systems, and the negligence and crookedness of society and its elected officials. It ends on the refrain: "Here's to the land you've torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!" by Katie Buie #000000
196711967-1969The Los Angeles YearsLos Angeles and Griffith Observatory, as viewed from the Hollywood Hills. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
197711976-2018Phil's Mission Lives OnPhil Ochs’ commitment to topical songwriting and activism lives on today. Many artists have covered his work including Joan Baez, Cher, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, and Lady Gaga. With his poignant lyrics, several of his songs have been rewritten to reflect upon modern news events (see, for example, Teething Veils reinterpretation "<a href="" target="_blank">Here's to the State of Donald Trump</a>." His commitment to equal rights is celebrated and continued by friends and family, like his niece, LGBTQ activist <a href="" target="_blank">Robyn Ochs</a>. Decades after his death, his lyrics are still used to support the struggles of marginalized peoples, condemn the injustices caused by unbridled capitalism and militarism, inform people about human rights conflicts internationally, and express a desire for genuine human emotion and connection. by Olivia CotterAll photos used are licensed under creative commons. #283747
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