Phil Ochs PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 October 2008 10:34

Philip David Ochs

Born: December 19, 1940, El Paso, Texas.

Died: April 9, 1976 Far Rockaway, New York

Age: 35

Cause of death: Hanged himself in his sisters home.

Notable because: Wrote 'There but for fortune'. Died young.


Phil Ochs was a U.S. protest singer (or, as he preferred, a "topical singer"), songwriter, musician, journalist and recording artist who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and haunting voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and released eight LP record albums in his lifetime.

He 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 The Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a "left social democrat" who turned into an "early revolutionary" after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which had a profound effect on his state of mind. He was often seen as a radical and also a patriot — though he was also interested in differing political philosophies as well as journalism, and was an avid fan of music and movies.

After years of prolific writing in the 1960s, Ochs' mental stability declined in the 1970s and eventually he succumbed to a number of problems including bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and he took his own life in 1976.

Some of his major influences were Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, Merle Haggard, John Wayne, and John F. Kennedy. His best known songs include "Power and the Glory", "Draft Dodger Rag", "What's That I Hear", "There But for Fortune", "Changes", "Crucifixion", "The War Is Over", "When I'm Gone", "Love Me I'm a Liberal", "Links on the Chain", "Ringing of Revolution", "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends", "One More Parade" and "I Ain't Marching Anymore". in El Paso, Texas in 1940, Phil Ochs' family moved around frequently. He moved with his family to Far Rockaway, New York as a teenager, then Perrysburg in upstate New York, where he first studied music — clarinet — and then his family moved to Columbus, Ohio. He grew up in a non-political and non-religious Jewish middle-class family, with older sister Sonia, known as Sonny, and younger brother Michael. His father, Jacob ("Jack") Ochs, was a doctor; his mother, Gertrude Phin Ochs, was from Scotland. His father, who had treated soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge, suffered from bipolar disorderand was thus not always available to his children.

As a teenager, Ochs was recognized as a talented clarinet player, and was praised for having "exceptional musical feeling" and a "gift for interpretation". His youthful musical skills allowed him to play clarinet underage with the Capital University Orchestra in Ohio. Although Ochs originally played classical music, he soon became interested in other sounds on the radio, such as early rock icons Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. He also listened avidly to country music artists including Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Sr., and Johnny Cash.

Ochs spent a lot of time at the movies too, and especially liked big screen heroes such as John Wayne and Audie Murphy, and a little later he developed an interest in movie rebels such as Marlon Brando and James Dean.

After graduating from the Staunton Military Academy in rural Virginia in 1958, he enrolled in the Ohio State University in Columbus. Unhappy after his first semester, he took a leave of absence and went to Florida. While in Miami, the 18-year-old Ochs was put in jail for two weeks for sleeping on a park bench, an incident he would later recall: "Somewhere during the course of those fifteen days I decided to become a writer. My primary thought was journalism ... so in a flash I decided — I'll be a writer and a major in journalism.

He returned to Ohio State to study journalism and began to be interested in politics, with a particular interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959 This was where he met Jim Glover, a fellow student who was a devotee of folk music and who introduced Ochs to the music of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. Glover taught Ochs how to play guitar, and they debated politics. Ochs began prolifically writing newspaper pieces, often on radical themes. When the student paper refused to publish some of his more radical articles, he started his own underground newspaper called The Word. His two main interests, politics and music, soon merged, and Ochs began writing topical political songs. Ochs and Glover formed a duet at first called "The Singing Socialists" and then "The Sundowners", but they broke up before their first professional gig and Glover went to New York City to be a folksinger. Phil's parents and younger brother had moved from Columbus to Cleveland, Ohio, and Phil started to spend more time there, performing professionally at a local folk club called Farragher's Back Room. He was the opening act for a number of musicians, including the Smothers Brothers in the summer of 1961. Ochs met Bob Gibson that summer as well, and according to Dave Van Ronk, Gibson became "the seminal influence" on Ochs' writing. Ochs continued at Ohio State into his senior year, but was bitterly disappointed at not being appointed editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, and dropped out in his last semester without graduating.

Ochs in the early 60's - posing with his Gibson J-45.

Ochs in the early 60's - posing with his Gibson J-45.

In 1962 Phil moved to New York City and began playing in numerous small folk clubs, eventually becoming an integral part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene. He emerged as an unpolished yet passionate vocalist who wrote poignant lyrics about war, civil rights, labor struggles and other topics which continue to be relevant, and could be described as a socially conscious patriot in the tradition of Woody Guthrie. He described himself as a "singing journalist", or "troubadour journalist", saying he built his songs from stories he read in Newsweek. By the summer of 1963 he was well known enough in folk circles to be invited to sing at the Newport Folk Festival where he performed "Too Many Martyrs" (co-written with Bob Gibson ), "Talking Birmingham Jam" and "Power and the Glory", his rousing patriotic, but not uncritical, Woody Guthrie-esque anthem that brought the audience to its feet; also appearing at Newport '63 were Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Tom Paxton. Ochs' return appearance at Newport in 1964 was widely praised, with "Draft Dodger Rag" and other songs. But he was not invited to appear in 1965, the festival when Dylan famously — or infamously — rocked out "Maggie's Farm" with an electric guitar. Although many in the folk world decried Dylan's choice, Ochs was amused, and admired Dylan's courage in defying the folk establishment.

Ochs contributed many songs and articles for Broadside Magazine, where he also had his first chance to record. His first three albums (All the News That's Fit to Sing (1964), I Ain't Marching Anymore (1965), and Phil Ochs in Concert (1966)), all on Elektra Records, contain some of his best work as a pure folk singer and examples of two traditional genres that Ochs contributed to in his early performances, namely the talking blues (such as "Talking Vietnam Blues") and the musical reinterpretation of older poetry (as of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman" and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Bells").During this early period of his career, his friend Bob Dylan said, "I just can't keep up with Phil. And he's getting better and better and better." This praise and friendly rivalry was to change in 1965, and on one occasion Ochs' criticism of one of Dylan's songs led Dylan to throw him out of his limousine, proclaiming: "You're not a folksinger. You're a journalist".Phil Ochs

His managers in the early part of his career were Albert Grossman (manager of Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary) followed by Arthur Gorson. Gorson had close ties with such groups as Americans For Democratic Action, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Students for a Democratic Society.

Generally a quixotic and high-strung type of person, Phil would often have drastic mood swings. He was known to enjoy himself, fraternize, joke, drink, and debate extensively with others. Through much of the 1960s Phil seemed to be in a manic creative mood, and he kept advancing his musical art form with each subsequent album release.

In 1967, Ochs — now managed by his brother Michael — left Elektra for A&M Records and moved to California, trying a different musical approach and enhancing his solo acoustic guitar performance style with richer orchestration. In his later studio albums (Pleasures of the Harbor (1967), Tape from California (1968), Rehearsals for Retirement (1969), and the ironically titled Greatest Hits (1970) (which actually contains all original material and no reissued recordings), he moved away from simply-produced topical songs and experimented with ensemble and even orchestral instrumentation, "baroque-folk", in the hopes of producing a pop-folk hybrid that would be a hit.

Robert Christgau, writing of Pleasures of the Harbor in May 1968, did not consider this a good turn. While describing Ochs as "unquestionably a nice guy…impossible to dislike" as a person, he then went on to say "Too bad his voice shows an effective range of about half an octave… [and that] his guitar playing would not suffer much if his right hand were webbed. Very bad indeed that he has learned so little from Mao Tse-tung's poetry…". (Eight of Mao's poems had appeared on the record jacket of In Concert, with the tagline "Is this the enemy?".) "Pleasures of the Harbor", continued Christgau, "…epitomizes the decadence that has infected pop since Sgt. Pepper. …[The] gaudy musical settings … inspire nostalgia for the three-chord strum…" Always quick with ironic humor, Ochs includes Christgau's comment (unattributed) about his so-called webbed-hand guitar playing in the 1968 songbook The War is Over on a page called "The Critics Raved", opposite a full-page picture of Ochs standing in a New York City street garbage can. Despite his sense of humor, Ochs was unhappy that his work was not receiving the critical acclaim and popular success he had hoped for.

Although he was trying new things musically, Ochs did not abandon his protest roots lyrically or personally — among others, his "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land" and "The War is Over" include powerful anti-war lyrics ("Raw recruits are lining up like coffins in a cage" and "But just before the end, even treason might be worth a try — this country is too young to die"). Other representative tunes from these albums are "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends", about public, political, and personal apathy, a song in which Ochs used the powerful example of the murder of Kitty Genovese, who was killed despite having her cries for help heard by others, to demonstrate the ambivalent nature of society; "Crucifixion," where he compares the deaths of Jesus Christ and President John F. Kennedy as part of an inevitable "cycle of sacrifice" in which the world builds up heroes and turns around to celebrate their destruction; "Chords of Fame," warning against the dangers and corruptions of fame; "Pleasures of the Harbor," a lyrical portrait of the lonely sailor seeking human connection far from home; "Jim Dean of Indiana," an homage to a small town boy who left to be a movie star, but ended up buried in his small town; and the sad and beautiful "William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed", about the despair felt in the aftermath of the Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention police riot. None actually became hits, although "Small Circle of Friends" received airplay and reached #118 on the Billboard charts before being banned from many radio stations for suggesting (perhaps sarcastically) that "smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer". It was the closest Ochs ever came to the Top 40. (Joan Baez, however, did have a #8 hit in the UK in August 1965 with her cover of Ochs' song "There But for Fortune", which was also nominated for a Grammy award for "Best Folk Recording". It was not a hit in the USA)

A lifelong movie fan, Ochs worked the narratives of justice and rebellion that he saw in films as a young man into his music, describing some of his songs as "cinematic" (e.g., in the live spoken intro to "Ringing of Revolution" from Phil Ochs in Concert). He was disappointed, and bitter, when his onetime hero John Wayne embraced the Vietnam War with what Ochs saw as the blind patriotism of The Green Berets. we have John Wayne, who was a major artistic and psychological figure on the American scene... who at one point used to make movies of soldiers who had a certain ... sense of honor [about] what the soldier was doing... Even if it was a cavalry movie doing a historically dishonorable thing to the Indians, even as there was a feeling of what it meant to be a man, what it meant to have some sense of duty... Now today we have the same actor making his new war movie in a war so hopelessly corrupt that, without seeing the movie, I'm sure it is perfectly safe to say that it will be an almost technically-robot-view of soldiery, just by definition of how the whole country has deteriorated. And I think it would make a very interesting double feature to show a good old Wayne movie like, say, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with The Green Berets. Because that would make a very striking comment on what has happened to America in general.

Phil Ochs is perhaps best known as a political activist. He was profoundly concerned with the escalation of the Vietnam War. He performed tirelessly at anti-war rallies all around the country and actively supported Eugene McCarthy's bid for the 1968 Democratic nomination for President. He organized several "The War is Over" rallies ("...Is everybody sick of this stinking war? In that case, friends, do what I and thousands of other Americans have done — declare the war over.").

Phil was involved in the creation of the Youth International Party, known as the "Yippies", standing alongside '60s radicals Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Paul Krassner, although not always in agreement[ with the Yippie point of view or their tactics.. But he was part of the planning of the Yippies' "Festival of Life" which was to take place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention along with demonstrations by other anti-war groups including the National Mobilization Against the War in Vietnam. Despite warnings that there might be trouble, Ochs went to Chicago as both a guest of the McCarthy campaign, and to participate in the demonstrations. He performed in Lincoln Park, Grant Park] and at the Chicago Coliseum, witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Chicago police against the protestors, and was himself arrested at one point.

The events of 1968 — the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the violent police riot in Chicago, and the eventual election of Richard Nixon — left Ochs disillusioned and depressed. The cover of his 1969 Rehearsals for Retirement album eerily portrays a tombstone with the words:


Ochs testified for the defense at the infamous trial of the Chicago 7 in December 1969 along with other anti-war activists. His testimony included his recitation of the lyrics to "I Ain't Marching Anymore", followed by his singing it to the press corps outside of the courtroom: the singing was aired by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News, to Phil's amusement.

But after the trial he changed direction and decided that he needed to get back to his musical roots in order to try to have more influence on the general public, the "regular" folks, the working class, the middle class, and to speak directly to the people. He thought he needed to be "part Elvis Presley, part Che Guevara". He commissioned a gold lamé suit from Elvis' costumer Nudie Cohn that he would wear for the cover photograph on Greatest Hits and he went on tour — most famously in Carnegie Hall in March 1970 — wearing that suit, singing medleys of songs by Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Merle Haggard, as well as some new songs from Greatest Hits and new interpretations of his old songs. The Carnegie Hall shows (immortalized in the Gunfight at Carnegie Hall album) were met with hostility from some of the people in the crowd, but with wild appreciation from many others. The first show of the night was cut short by a bomb threat; the second, midnight, show went on until 3 a.m., with loyal fans cheering to the end.09ochs

During the time of the "gold suit" concerts, Phil was taking several pills to get through sometimes rocky performances. He had been taking Valium for years to help control his nerves by this point, and was also drinking heavily. At points, he was even prescribed Lithium for his growing mental problems, though he didn't enjoy taking it. The downers would sometimes pull him down too far to perform the way he wanted, so he tried to take uppers to counter their effects, with often devastating results. Pianist Lincoln Mayorga recalls this time, "He was physically abusing himself very badly on that tour. The wine was pulling him one way and the uppers were pulling him another way, and he was kind of a mess. There were so many pharmaceuticals around — so many pills. I'd never seen anything like that". Phil eventually decided to attempt to cut back on pills, but alcohol was still primarily his drug of choice throughout much of the rest of his life.

Ochs would not record any further albums, partly depressed by his lack of widespread appreciation and compounded by feelings of disillusionment, he slipped deeper into manic-depression, alcoholism and idleness, but he still tried to continue his political activism in a number of ways whenever he could.

He began to travel the world, and met and sang with Chilean folksinger Víctor Jara, a supporter of Chilean President Salvador Allende—a Marxist who had been democratically elected in the 1970 Chilean presidential election—both of whom later died during the CIA backed 1973 coup d'état, Jara after being publicly tortured, Allende during the bombing of the presidential palace.

In October 1970, he performed with Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and the Canadian band Chilliwack at the first Greenpeace Benefit Concert, organized to raise funds to send a ship to protest a planned underground hydrogen bomb test by the US at the Aleutian island of Amchitka. Ochs was personally invited by John Lennon to sing at a large benefit in December of 1971 on behalf of John Sinclair, an activist poet who had been arrested on minor drug charges and given an overly severe sentence; Ochs performed at the "Free John Sinclair" benefit along with Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg, and many others; the rally culminated in Lennon making his first post-Beatle-breakup live onstage appearance with Yoko Ono.

This was not a prolific songwriting time for Ochs, but he still had his genius: for example re-working his old sarcastic song "Here's To The State Of Mississippi" as "Here's To The State of Richard Nixon" with cutting lines such as "and the speeches of the President are the ravings of a clown"—later improved by Ochs to "and the speeches of the Spiro are the ravings of a clown", referring to Nixon's vitriolic vice president, Spiro Agnew. Despite his disillusionment with the political process as a result of the 1968 election, Ochs continued to work for the election campaigns of antiwar candidates, such as George McGovern's profoundly unsuccessful Presidential bid in 1972 and he continued to record and perform sporadically.

While visiting Africa in 1973, Ochs was attacked and strangled by robbers, which damaged his vocal cords. The attack exacerbated his growing mental problems, and at times he became increasingly paranoid. He believed the attack may have been arranged by government agents (he was convinced—as it happened, correctly—that the FBI had extensive files on him), but he continued his trip, and recorded a "single" in Africa.

Angry and upset on his return from Africa at the deaths of Allende and Jara during the Chilean coup d'état, in May 1974 Ochs organized a major benefit concert, "An Evening with Salvador Allende," at New York's Madison Square Garden Felt Forum which included films of the late Allende, and singers and political activists such as Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, and Bob Dylan, and former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Dylan agreed at the last minute to appear when he heard that the concert had sold so few tickets that it was in danger of being cancelled. Once Dylan's participation was announced, the event quickly sold out.

This led to a reconciliation between Dylan and Ochs, who discussed touring together. That never came about, but the idea eventually evolved into Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue.

The Vietnam War officially ended in April 1975: in what would be his last activist event, Phil Ochs led a final "War is Over" rally in New York's Central Park, which brought together over 100,000 people to hear Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Pete Seeger and others. Ochs and Joan Baez sang a duet of his "There But for Fortune" and he closed with a finally true rendition of his song "The War is Over".

Intensely disappointed by his lack of commercial success and unable to write new songs, Ochs was also haunted by bipolar disorder and an alternate personality under the drunken, chaotic persona John Butler Train. After spiralling downward in a long stretch of erratic, self-destructive behavior, Phil Ochs hanged himself on April 9, 1976 at his sister's home in Far Rockaway, New York.

Many years after his death, it was revealed that the FBI had a file of nearly 500 pages on Ochs. Much of the information in those files relates to his association with counter-culture figures, protest organizers, musicians, and other so-called "subversive" types. The FBI often didn't do a very diligent job of collecting information on Ochs: his name is frequently misspelled as "Phil Oakes" in their files, and they continued collecting information on him after his death, until belatedly realizing that he had passed on.

Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D-NY), an outspoken antiwar activist herself who had appeared at the final "War is Over" rally just a year before, entered this statement into the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

While his tragic action was undoubtedly motivated by terrible personal despair, his death is a political as well as an artistic tragedy. I believe it is indicative of the despair many of the activists of the 1960s are experiencing as they perceive a government which continues the distortion of national priorities that is exemplified in the military budget we have before us.

Phil Ochs' poetic pronouncements were part of a larger effort to galvanize his generation into taking action to prevent war, racism, and poverty. He left us a legacy of important songs that continue to be relevant in 1976 — even though "the war is over".

Just one year ago—during this week of the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War—Phil recruited entertainers to appear at the "War is Over" celebration in Central Park, at which I spoke.

It seems particularly appropriate that this week we should commemorate the contributions of this extraordinary young man.

Writing in the Village Voice ten days after Ochs died — far too late for Ochs to appreciate the irony or benefit from belated praise — the same critic Robert Christgau who had been so critical of the Pleasures of the Harbor album eight years earlier wrote: "... I came around to liking Phil Ochs's music, guitar included. My affection [for Ochs] no doubt prejudiced me, so it is worth [noting] that many observers who care more for folk music than I do remember both his compositions and his vibrato tenor as close to the peak of the genre."

Thirty years after his death, Phil Ochs continues to influence singers and fans worldwide, many of whom never saw him perform live. There are active online discussion groups and listservs dedicated to Ochs and his music (e.g., the "no-more-songs" listserv and two Yahoo groups); websites that have music samples, photographs, and other links (e.g. a MySpace Music page); articles and books continue to be written and published about Ochs (e.g., Big Bridge Press devoted an entire issue to his work): all of which promote his legacy to a new generation of fans. He is survived by his older sister, Sonny Ochs (Tanzman), who runs a series of "Phil Ochs Song Nights" — with a rotating group of performers keeping his music and his legacy alive, singing his songs in cities across the U.S; his younger brother, Michael Ochs, who is a well-known photographic archiver of rock music personalities; and his daughter Meegan Lee Ochs who worked with Michael to produce a wide-ranging box set of her father's music titled Farewells & Fantasies — the title was taken from Phil's sign-off on the "postcard" on the back of the Tape from California LP: "Farewells & Fantasies, Folks, P. Ochs" . Ochs was married to Alice Skinner Ochs in 1962 and separated in 1965 — they never divorced.

Phil Ochs' songs have been covered by David Rovics, Cher, Cilla Black, Gordon Lightfoot, Pete Seeger, Brian Ritchie, Judy Collins, Harry Nilsson, Dave Van Ronk, Carolyn Hester, Julie Felix, Jim and Jean, Joan Baez, Eric Andersen, Billy Bragg, Peter Asher, Bastro, Teenage Fanclub, Ani DiFranco, Gene Clark, Dick Gaughan, Eugene Chadbourne, John Wesley Harding, Crispian St. Peters, Eddie Vedder, The Weakerthans, Marianne Faithfull, Travis MacRae, Melanie Safka, Diamanda Galás, They Might Be Giants, Ray Naylor, Black 47, The Shrubs, Thea Gilmore, Pat Humphries, and Tempest among many others.

Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon, in their album Prairie Home Invasion, recorded a version of "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" with lyrics updated to the Clinton era. Evan Greer, part of the Riot-Folk! collective, later updated "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" for the Bush era. Ryan Harvey, also part of Riot Folk, has remade "Cops Of The World" with updated lyrics. The Clash used some of the lyrics to Ochs' "United Fruit" in their song "Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)," which appeared on their 1980 album Sandinista!. During their recent performance on VH1's Storytellers, Pearl Jam covered "Here's to the State of Mississippi" with updated lyrics to include Jerry Falwell, Dick Cheney, John G. Roberts, Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush. In 2002, with the agreement of Och's sister, Sonny, Richard Thompson added an extra verse "I ain't marching anymore" to reflect recent American foreign policy.[41]

In 1998 Sliced Bread Records released What's That I Hear?: The Songs of Phil Ochs, a two CD set of twenty-eight covers by artists such as Billy Bragg, Sammy Walker, Magpie, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Arlo Guthrie, Peter Yarrow, Nanci Griffith, John Gorka, Pat Humphries and others. The liner notes indicate that all record company profits from the sale of the set were to be divided between the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Sing Out! magazine.

Kind Of Like Spitting released an entire album, Learn: The Songs Of Phil Ochs, consisting of covers of nine songs written by Ochs and originally recorded by him, in order to pay tribute to his music and raise awareness to the artist they felt had been overlooked by many. On his solo acoustic tour following 'Learn's' release, frontman Ben Barnett refused to sell Kind Of Like Spitting T-Shirts opting instead for black shirts with bold white letters spelling 'OCHS'.

The Todd Snider song "Thin Wild Mercury," which has been recorded by Peter Cooper , is about Ochs' infamous clash with Dylan and getting thrown out of his limo. It includes the line "Judas went electric and he never looked back." Ochs is mentioned in the Dar Williams song "All My Heroes Are Dead," the Will Oldham song "Gezundheit," the They Might Be Giants song "The Day." The Josh Joplin Group recorded an eponymous tribute to Ochs on their album Useful Music. Schooner Fare recorded "Don't Stop To Rest (Song for Phil Ochs)" on their album Closer to the Wind (1981).

In addition, Ochs is the subject of "I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night", by British singer Billy Bragg, from his 1990 album The Internationale. British group Latin Quarter memorialized him in the song "Phil Ochs" on their album Long Pig (1993). John Wesley Harding has also recorded a song titled "Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Steve Goodman, David Blue & Me", the title a reference to the Ochs song "Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Me". Singer-Songwriter Nanci Griffith wrote a song about Phil entitled "Radio Fragile". English folk/punk songwriter Al Baker recorded a song about Ochs entitled "All The News That's Fit To Sing", a reference to Ochs' first album, Cajun musician Vic Sadot wrote a song about Phil entitled "Broadside Balladeer", singer-songwriter Jen Cass has recorded a song titled "Standing In Your Memory", and Harry Chapin "The Parade's Still Passing By" as tributes to Phil Ochs. Expressing his feelings upon learning of Ochs' death, Tom Paxton in his 1978 album Heroes wrote the touching song titled simply "Phil". On The 2005 Kind Of Like Spitting Album "In The Red" Songwriter Ben Barnett included his song "Sheriff Ochs" inspired by reading a biography of Ochs.

The punk band Squirrel Bait cited Ochs as a major creative influence in the liner notes of their 1986 album Skag Heaven, and cover his "Tape From California". A Greek folk record, Dimitris Panagopoulos' Unstable Equilibrium (1987), was dedicated to the memory of Phil Ochs.

Among Ochs' many admirers were the short story writer Breece D'J Pancake and actor Sean Penn. Meegan Lee Ochs writes in her Foreword to Farewells & Fantasies that she and Sean Penn discussed "over many years" the possibility of making a movie about her father. Author Jim Carroll's autobiography, The Basketball Diaries, was dedicated to Phil Ochs. The Go-Betweens' Grant McLennan wore a shirt with the words "Get out of the car Ochs" in an early promo photo. The film Spanking the Monkey contains reference to Ochs and his suicide. Ochs is mentioned in the Stephen King novels The Tommyknockers and Hearts in Atlantis.

Last Updated on Saturday, 23 April 2011 13:20

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