Happy Birthday, Phil Ochs

This is a collection of blogs posted on various sites over the last few days, all on Phil Ochs’ music. You can reach them here.

From a Large Circle of Friends to You, Phil Ochs

65 years old, you would be today!  Can you imagine it?

But you’re gone, leaving us in too much of a hurry with just your beautiful songs for us to remember you by:

When the echoes of my ecstacy appear

Wish I was here

Sorry I can’t stop and talk now

I’m in kind of a hurry anyhow

But I’ll send you a Tape From California.

We got the tape.  This is just a note of thanks.

It’s one of many.  The others can be found, starting here.

I want to end my series of blogs on your songs with a few comments on the one I see as your greatest: “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”:

I returned to teaching just a little over four years ago, just weeks before 9/11 and merely a football-field from the Brooklyn Bridge–just across the river from the twin towers.  We heard the sirens from the classroom, then more sirens.  Then, and in the days after, I saw people stepping outside of their own lives to help others, an outpouring as great as any I’ve ever witnessed.

An outpouring that could have been harnessed for the good of all humanity, but that was hijacked by crass political agendas on the part of those who rule us.  Soon, we were heading back to the isolationist “I’ve got mine” attitude that had characterized the eighties and nineties–and that Phil Ochs had lampooned even a decade earlier.

Toward the end of that first semester returning to teaching, that semester of 9/11, I read the lyrics of “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” to my students.  I have read them to each class I have taught since (OK, I am an English teacher, so I even have an excuse).

The song opens with a verse inspired by the murder of Kitty Genovese while a couple of dozen people listened to her screams and did nothing:

Look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed

They’ve dragged her to the bushes and now she’s being stabbed

Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain

 But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game

 And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody

Outside of a small circle of friends.

And this over a bright, tinny, honky-tonk piano.

“Hey!  It’s not my responsibility.”  For years, when I was younger and stronger and worked in garages (so was able to get many cars back on the road–at least enough to get them to real mechanics), I always carried a tool set in my trunk–along with a towing chain.  I did so, in part, because of this verse:

Riding down the highway, yes, my back is getting stiff

Thirteen cars are piled up, they’re hanging on a cliff.

Maybe we should pull them back with our towing chain

But we gotta move and we might get sued and it looks like it’s gonna rain.

And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody

Outside of a small circle of friends.

I don’t do that any more.  Why not?  I like to claim its because I no longer have either the tools or the knowledge to work on today’s cars.  But I think that I, too, have succumbed to the fear and the protectionist attitudes that have overwhelmed our culture.  So I’m promising myself: I will stop, when I see what looks like a problem.  I have a cell phone, at least; if I can’t help myself, maybe I can bring others who can.

This song should be a lesson to us all (to me, too–as I said).  There are verses about attitudes towards the poor, towards free speech, and this:

Smoking marihuana is more fun than drinking beer,

But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him thirty years

Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why

But demonstrations are a drag, besides we’re much too high

And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody

Outside of a small circle of friends.

According to one report,

12.9% of the drug prisoners in state prison and 18.9% of those in federal prison were incarcerated for marijuana/hashish offenses.

Given our incredibly high rate of incarceration, isn’t it strange that we can’t yet see that the answer to drug problems certainy isn’t throwing people in jail?  Certainly not for something as mild and innocent as marihuana.

Most of you reading this have been galvanized, these last years (as I have), into greater political action.  There is much to be done, and there will be times where our energies will flag.  When it does, all we need to do is put on this song, and then listen to the rest of Phil Ochs’ music.

It can help re-energize us and help us move ahead.

Thank you, Phil, for the tapes that keep in arriving from your personal California.  And (once again) Happy Birthday!!!!!

Phil Ochs and Optimism

The song I want to talk about now is “What’s That I Hear?”:

One of the things we having missing today that was present throughout the sixties, even as we feared nuclear weapons and faced the degradation of our nation through the war in Vietnam, is a sense of optimism–about humanity and about the possibilities of the United States of America.  The forces of idealism that led to the “counterculture” were quite real: many of us involved believed absolutely that we could create a new and better world, building on the great work of our American ancestors even while tearing down more recent impediments.

Phil Ochs sang to this spirit:

What’s that I hear now ringing in my ear

I’ve heard that sound before

What’s that I hear now ringing in my ear

I hear it more and more

It’s the sound of freedom calling

Ringing up to the sky

It’s the sound of the old ways falling

You can hear it if you try

    You can hear it if you try.

Does that sound quaint to you?  Naive?  Maybe it is.  But it kept us trying, striving, working for something other than our own, individual advancement.  Maybe we couldn’t achieve everything we dreamed of, but the fact of working toward a dream was itself a reward.

When we become small minded, protective, grasping, we also turn mean.  And mean is what the US is becoming.  Just look at the way we treat people who want to join us here–we treat them as criminals for wanting to do no more than better their lives, for believing in nothing more than that a better world can be made.

No, the old ways haven’t fallen–not yet.  But perhaps, if we listen more to Phil Ochs and less to George Bush, we can regain a faith that the future can be better–and better for everyone.  Rather than building walls and gates, maybe we can begin to find ways of improving life for everyone.

Which would be, by the way, the best possible way of fighting a “war” on terrorism.  It’s the only way that war can be won.

So am I just a throwback, silly and embarrassing?  Are “we” so ‘realistic’ now that we don’t believe that a better world can be made?  Oh, I hope not.  For, it’s true, I do remain an idealist.

Which is why, as much as anything else, I still listen to Phil Ochs, and why his lyrics come into my mind almost every day.

Phil Ochs and Foreign Leaders

This entry is on “Talkin’ Vietnam”:

There’s a great deal in this song that is specific to the situation in Vietnam in the early 1960s–the song was written and recorded before the great expansion of the war in the late 1960s.  But its greater points apply to Iraq and to the way the US views the rest of the world–particularly what it sees as “client” states.

Ochs was quite aware of the irony of our “liberation” policies:

Friends the very next day we trained some more

We burned some villages down to the floor.

Yes we burned out the jungles far and wide,

Made sure those red apes had no place left to hide.

Threw all the people in relocation camps,

Under lock and key, made damn sure they’re free.

Sounds a little like what we’ve done to certain towns in Iraq, doesn’t it?  The more things change…

The song centers on President Diem and his sister Madame Nhu, whose American-backed rule of South Vietnam ended when the US signalled to other forces in the country that a coup might be appreciated.  Diem and Nhu were assassinated.  Diem speaks to Ochs’ narrator:

Said: “If you want to stay you’ll have to pay

Over a million dollars a day.

But it’s worth it all, don’t you see?

If you loose the country you’ll still have me.

Me and Syngman Rhee, Chiang Kai-shek, Madam Nhu.

Like I said on Meet the Press

‘I regret that I have but one country to give for my life.'”

Ahmed Chalabi, anyone?

It’s the final verse, though, that worries me with its implications for the Iraqi government just elected.  Whose government is it going to be, anyway?

Well now old Diem is gone and dead

All the new leaders are anti-Red.

Yes they’re pro-American, freedom sensations

Against Red China, the United Nations.

Now all the news commentators and the CIA

are saying, “Thank God for coincidence.”

What would happen, do you think, if this new Iraqi government decides it doesn’t like us and wants us out?  You think it would stay around?  Somehow, I think it will toady to us, just like the South Vietnam governments did (for all the good it ultimately did them).

Phil Ochs and George Bush

This diary is inspired by the song “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon.”

Early on after 9/11, many of us on the left began to feel that the patriotism we all felt in the aftermath had been hijacked for use by a right wing agenda, one that (it soon became apparent) included the invasion of Iraq.

Ochs, during the Vietnam War, had witnessed something similar–and decided to fight back.  It wasn’t he and the left, he argued, that were unpatriotic, but the right.  The right (in the person of Richard Nixon–today, of course, it would be George Bush) was perverting America, changing it into another country completely.  Thus Ochs’ tag-line for the song (an echo of a similar one in “Here’s to the State of Mississippi”):

Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of.

“Love it or leave it?”  Ochs believed (as Woody Guthrie did) in America and loved it and all it had stood for.  It was the right, which was trying to change the country into something quite different from the vision of its founders, that should leave.  The damage that had been done, Ochs felt, was nearly fatal:

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of.

How many on the left would argue that Bush has not done the same, today?

No Child Left Behind?  Is this meant to be real education, real understanding of the humanity of one’s fellow beings?  Or is it simply a means of promoting competition and selfishness?

And here’s to the schools Richard Nixon

Where they’re teaching all the children they don’t have to care

All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere

And every single classroom is a factory of despair

Oh, there’s nobody learnin’ such a foreign word as fair.

This song, actually, is almost too sad, too relevant to today’s world.  In light of George Bush’s speech last night and his admission to having ordered illegal wiretaps just this weekend, I’ll end with this verse:

And here’s to the laws Richard Nixon

Where the wars are fought in secret, Pearl Harbor every day

He punishes with income tax that he don’t have to pay

And he’s tapping his own brother just to here what he would say

But corruption can be classic in the Richard Nixon way.

There’s more… and all of it relevant.  Just replace Richard Nixon with George Bush.

Listen to the song!

Phil Ochs and the Irony of the “Free World”

This entry is on “The Ballad of William Worthy.”

Maher Arar was just passing through the US on his way home to Canada.  He ended up in Syria, held and tortured for months–just for passing through a “free” country.  The irony of the last verse of “The Ballad of William Worthy” certainly should not be lost on us today:

William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door

Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore

But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say

You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay.

When our leaders say they want to `protect freedom,’ there’s often a bit of a verbal slight-of-hand going on.  They don’t mean freedom in quite the same way we do.  They are thinking of freedom in terms of `free markets,’ while most of his are hearing something with a more personal and libertarian bent.  Thus, they can argue that, to protect freedom (the free market), certain other freedoms (individual liberty) must be curtailed without ever feeling they are involved in a contradiction–though many of the rest of us are left scratching our heads.

William Worthy is an American journalist who insisted on reporting from Cuba during the early days of the Castro regime.  The US government didn’t like that, and actually tried to keep him from coming home, or to fine and imprison him:

Five thousand dollars or a five year sentence may well be

For a man who had the nerve to think that traveling is free

Oh why’d he waste his time to see a dictator’s reign

When he could have seen democracy by traveling on to Spain?

Are we Americans too uppity when we take literally what we are told?  Or should we realize that it’s not our freedoms that are important, but the market’s freedoms?

It’s not just traveling that’s under question, but our whole relationship to the world of business and trade.

“Freedom” continues to be bandied about without a lot of thought.  George Bush can say,

They hate our freedoms–our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

But it’s not our freedoms they hate, not the ones Bush lists, at least, but the freedom of our government and industry to impinge upon them.  And that has nothing to do with “us.”  After all, as Phil Ochs recognized so many years ago, what we think are our freedoms are often ephemeral:

So, come all you good travelers and fellow-travelers, too

Yes, and travel all around the world, see every country through

I’d surely like to come along and see what may be new

But my passport’s disappearing as I sing these words to you.

Phil Ochs and Government in Our Lives

Today, especially with George Bush aggressively defending his authorization of spying on people in the United States, Ochs’ “Knock on the Door” is increasingly relevant.

In Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip there was a dog, in the early 1970s, who looked a lot like Vice President Spiro Agnew.  At one point, he started locking the swamp creatures up–probably for their ‘own good’ and the ‘protection’ of the swamp.  Eventually, no one was left out of jail but the dog.  The last line of the sequence is the dog thinking, “I’m lonely.”

What Kelly wanted to point out was the danger of allowing to have things done to us for our own good.  Rarely, of course, do they end up being for our own good.  Just yesterday, George Bush admitted that he had authorized domestic spying

he defiantly vowed to continue such domestic electronic eavesdropping “for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat….”

The greater threat lies in what he is doing.  To paraphrase Ben Franklin, if we sacrifice freedom for security, we will wind up with neither… and the knocks, as Phil Ochs knew, will start coming at the door.

The last verse of the song is a particular warning concerning what is happening in the United States today:

Look over the oceans, look over the lands,

Look over the leaders with the blood on their hands.

And open your eyes and see what they do,

When they knock over their friend they’re knocking for you.

No, we are not the Soviet Union nor are we fascist Germany, places Ochs talks about specifically in the song, but out government is developing the same arrogance those governments had, that it is right and that it has the right to do anything it sees fit to “protect” the nation.

It’s a slippery slope we are starting down.  Let’s hope we can turn around and clamber back up before it gets to this for many more than it has already:

In many a time, in many a land,

With many a gun in many a hand,

They came by the night, they came by the day,

Came with their guns to take us away.

Of course, it has already come to that for too many, even in America.  The documentless immigrants who have been hauled away and locked away; the people caged at Guantanamo without charge; and the others who have surely been spirited away without our knowledge.

Phil Ochs and the End of a Militarist Culture

This particular diary concentrates on “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore.”

Fall, 1965.  I was attending a boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina.  A small school (I think there were 24 of us that year), the Arthur Morgan School focused on Quaker principles.  After lunch, for example, the entire school population engaged in chores and maintenance or building projects for a couple of hours.  One day, as I was walking by the kitchen where other kids were involved in cleaning dishes and mopping floors, I heard a clear, though unpolished voice over a simple guitar from within.  Curious, I stopped and shouted toward the building, asking who was singing.  “Phil Ochs,” came the answer through the window, “and it’s a record.”

It was his newest, I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore.  I didn’t know it then, but it was only his second album.  It quickly became my favorite, especially the title song.  I loved its chorus:

It’s always the old to lead us to the war

It’s always the young to fall

Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun

Tell me is it worth it all.

Lines and a question as relevant today as they ever were in the sixties.

My family had lived in Thailand the previous year, and I had attended the International School of Bangkok.  We’d been staunch supporters of Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 election, but the Christmas bombings of Hanoi quickly changed us into dissenters.  After the holidays, my school doubled in size, flooded with American dependents evacuated from Saigon now that the heat had been turned up.  In our building lived Air Force officers who participated in bombings (denied by the US government) from bases in Thailand.

By the time we returned to the States, we knew more than a little something about the war.

Protest, however, was still small.  Ochs’ idealism and enthusiasm gave me, a 9th-grader, a sense that it could grow.

A few years later, “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” became even more important to me.  When I refused both a student deferment and conscientious objector status, I had an interview with my draft board, wanting to explain to them why, and why I would refuse induction.  My parents came along.  Surprisingly, the board wanted to talk to them.  Unfortunately, my father was out seeking change for a parking meter, so they only spoke with my mother.

They asked, “Is his father a veteran.”

“Yes.  He served in the Pacific in WWII”

“And his grandfathers?”

“Both in Europe in WWI.  One lost a leg.”

“Before that?”

“He had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War and is named for a Colonel in the Revolutionary Army.”

“Well, how do you think they would feel about what your son is doing now?”

“They would be proud.  He’s doing what an American should, standing up for his belief.”

To paraphrase Phil Ochs, I had decided to stop marching.  The song, through its verses, recounts much of American military history, including this on WWI:

For I marched to the battles of the German trench

In a war that was bound to end all wars

Oh I must have killed a million men

And now they want me back again

But I ain’t marchin’ anymore

And this on the last days of WWII:

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky

Set off the mighty mushroom roar

When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning

That I ain’t marchin’ anymore

By the time the Vietnam War had ended, I thought the rest of the nation had learned the lesson Ochs sang, too:

Call it “Peace” or call it “Treason,”

Call it “Love” or call it “Reason,”

But I ain’t marchin’ any more,

No I ain’t marchin’ any more.

But time passed and militarism proved that it was not dead.  Instead it grew until it seemed like it was going to overwhelm our culture.  I grew depressed and pessimistic about our prospects.

Today, however, there’s a new spirit growing in the land, one that Ochs would approve of.

We can be proud once again, as Ochs was, as I was when my mother spoke to that draft board, to stand up against war and violence.

I just wish we had Phil Ochs to lead us once again… as we march against marching.

Phil Ochs and the Invasion of Iraq

In this one, I present, more than discuss, his song “The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo.”

Back in those long ago days, when our troops were roaring towards Baghdad, reporters embedded and so much of America feeling powerful and vengeful (believing there really was a link between Saddam and 9/11, that WMDs just waited to be found, etc.), Phil Ochs’ song “The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo” resonated in my head.  I just couldn’t believe we were doing it again, that we hadn’t ever learned that this leads to nothing but destruction.

The streets are still, there’s silence in the hills, the town is sleeping

And the farmers yawn in the grey silver dawn, the fields they’re keeping

As the first troops land and step into the sand, the flags are weaving.

The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo.

Many times, in the months and years since, as I watch or listen to reports from Iraq, the song comes to my head, filling me with an overwhelming sadness.

What a great and wonderful country we live in, yet we demean it, in our own eyes and the eyes of the world every time we act the bully and force our will on someone else.

Ready for the tricks, their bayonets are fixed, now they are rolling

And the tanks make tracks past the trembling shacks where fear is unfolding

All the young wives afraid, turn their backs on the parade with babes they’re holding

The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo.

Then there’s the destruction, to us and to those we seek to overwhelm:

A bullet cracks the sound, the soldiers hit the ground, the sniper is calling

So they open their guns, a thousand to one, no sense in stalling

He clutches at his head and totters on the edge, look how he’s falling

The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo

Even today, the song reverberates from the news.  President Bush talks of victory; claims of progress are made:

Up and down the road, the generals drink a toast, the wheel is spinning

And the cowards and the whores are peeking through the doors to see who’s winning

But the traitors will pretend that it’s getting near the end, when it’s beginning

The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo

This song is decades and decades old.  Shouldn’t we have progressed?  Haven’t we learned anything?  “It’s beginning,” Ochs writes.  And it has been beginning for year upon year upon year.

Isn’t it time we put a real end to all of this?  Isn’t it time we became a mature nation instead of a bully?

Phil Ochs and Interconnectivity

This entry is on “Links on the Chain.”

One of the greatest problems we Americans have today is a diminishing ability to see just how much each of us is like any other—including even those people living in such strange places as Iraq, Venezuela, or Korea.  It starts at home, though.  Even here, we no longer see clearly just how alike we are—and how interconnected we are.

For example, our ancestors were all immigrants (even the Native Americans came from elsewhere, though long, long ago)—but now we want to lock the door on new immigrants.  We benefit from old struggles, but don’t want to share those benefits.  We’re like those Ochs complains about in “Links on the Chain”:

see if you remember the struggles of before,

When you were standing helpless on the outside of the door

And you started building links on the Chain.

On the Chain, you started building links on the Chain.

A guidance counselor in high school couldn’t see the links to the “struggles of before,” telling me (in 1968) that I should gladly be drafted and sent off to fight for the freedom his grandfather had come to this country for, freedom from forced military service in his homeland!

Ochs was writing specifically of the union movement and how it had begun to close itself off from the “outsiders,” the people who were not already members or who were trying to organize themselves.  “I got mine.  Tough, if you haven’t made it.  Don’t ask for my help.”  Specifically, he was referring to the failure of American labor to back the civil rights movement in the 1950s:

And then in 1954, decisions finally made,

The black man was a-rising fast and racing from the shade,

And your union took no stand and your union was betrayed,

As you lost yourself a link on the chain, on the chain,

As you lost yourself a link on the chain.

Ochs point was that we all need to watch out for each other, support each others.  Otherwise, we’re all going to lose.  His point is that our best interests are also the best interests of almost every group around us—except for the elite, those who have made it to the top—the people who try to convince us to work against our own best interest:

And the man who tries to tell you that they’ll take your job away,

He’s the same man who was scabbing hard just the other day,

And your union’s not a union till he’s thrown out of the way,

And he’s choking on your links of the chain, of the chain,

And he’s choking on your links of the chain.

Diverting us from recognition of what is in our own interest through fear (“they’ll take your job away”) has been one of the hallmarks of the right.  They try to make us fear the poor, the underemployed, the immigrant, the foreign worker… everyone but those we should fear: the elite who see the rest of us simple as so much cattle.

Phil Ochs and American Arrogance

In this entry, I am writing about his song “There But for Fortune”:

Last week, the life of Stanley “Tookie” Williams was ended.  By choice.  Not, as with Ochs’ own life, by personal choice–but by choice of the state.  Choice, in particular, of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In an arrogant, unsympathetic, politically-driven statement, the governor denied clemency because (in part) Williams lacked “remorse” for the killings he was convicted of committing.

The governor, an extremely lucky man, apparently has no concept of how close each of our lives is to another course.  How narrowly even the luckiest of us has averted disaster.

When Williams was killed, all I could think of, however, were these lines from “There But for Fortune”:

Show me a prison, show me a jail,

Show me a prisoner whose face has gone pale

And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why

 And there but for fortune, may go you or I.

Remorse isn’t what Schwarzenegger should have been considering at all, but humanity and connectivity–not to mention the fact that, from his prison cell, Williams had become a productive member of society.  With just a few changes in luck, it could have been Schwarzenegger himself sitting in a prison cell awaiting execution.

But he does not see that–obviously.  Or he never could have put Williams to death.

“Compassionate conservative”?  Not unless they are actually able to put themselves in the places of others, and can see how their own lives might have ended up differently.

There’s a verse in the song for George Bush, too:

Show me the whiskey stains on the floor,

Show me the dunken man as he stumbles out the door,

And I’ll show you a young man with so many reasons why

There but for fortune, may go you or go I — you and I.

Bush was lucky: he had a strong enough support system to allow him the leeway to overcome his addictions.  Not everybody has that.  There but for fortune….

So, so much of what Ochs writes has such a clear connection to this world of three decades since his death that the tragedy of his lonely, forgotten end wells deep emotions within me.  The final verse of “There But For Fortune” applies both to the United States of 9/11 and to the Iraq:

Show me the country where bombs had to fall,

Show me the ruins of buildings once so tall,

And I’ll show you a young land with so many reasons why

There but for fortune, go you or go I — you and I.

We need bombs and destruction now no more than we needed them forty years ago.

Phil Ochs was the spiritual child of Woody Guthrie.  His own spiritual children must be writing songs today.  Unfortunately, they are as obscure as Ochs was in his day.

If you hear a young songwriter striving to be heard, give her or him an ear.  We need them.

Phil Ochs and the Chicken Hawks

This morning I want to write briefly about his “Draft Dodger Rag”:

When draft registration was reinstated over 25 years ago, I attended a rally against it.  Someone with a guitar sang Ochs’ “Draft Dodger Rag.”  Singer and audience all thought it an anti-draft song and applauded loudly–they hadn’t listened to it, had only tranferred their own sentiments to it (they should have earlier listened to Ochs’ “Bound for Glory” with its line “He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same” to understand the importance of his lyrics): the song never was an anti-draft song (though Ochs was certainly against the draft).  Instead, it was a satiric condemnation of what we now call the “chicken hawks”–the people who avoided service in Vietnam but supported the war.  The people, unfortunately, from whom our current leaders are drawn.

The narrator of the song has no moral opposition to the draft.  His morality is simply conventional: “I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keeping old Castro down” (the Senator Dodd referred to is the father of the current senator, an inveterate supporter of the Vietnam War).  This is not a song of an idealist or a fighter, but of someone of unexamined belief and paramount self-interest.  And Ochs is making fun of him.

Most telling is that last verse:

I hate Chou En Lai, and I hope he dies,

  but one thing you gotta see

That someone’s gotta go over there

  and that someone isn’t me

So I wish you well, Sarge, give ’em Hell

  Yeah, Kill me a thousand or so

And if you ever get a war without blood and gore

  Well I’ll be the first to go

Dick Cheney, recognize yourself?

The point is that things haven’t changed all that much since the 1960s.  Ochs’ songs were relevant then; they are relevant now.

The neo-cons panic any time a comparison to Vietnam or the sixities is made.  Cynical and grasping, any stirring of idealism, of selfless love of country, about care for humanity, scares them.

But the comparisons can and should be made.

I’m just sorry Phil Ochs is no longer around to help us make them.

Bound for Glory Redux

Ochs was part of a tradition whose guiding light was Woody Guthrie, a generation older than Ochs.  By the 1960s, when Ochs did most of his recordings, Guthrie was incapacitated by Huntington’s corea.  Ochs, like Bob Dylan, wrote a song for him, showing his appreciation.  That song is “Bound for Glory”

To honor Phil Ochs, I have taken that song and created a new version, one meant to honor Ochs himself:

Bound for Glory Redux

He sang all over this green and growing land,

From the New York island to the California sand.

He saw all the people that needed to be seen,

Planted all the grass where it needed to be green.

  And now he’s bound for a glory all his own,

  And now he is bound for glory

He wrote and he sang and he rode into our hearts,

And he kept on going though he never made the charts.

He said all the words that needed to be said;

He fed all the hungry souls that needed to be fed.

.

(chorus)

He sang in our streets and he sang in our halls,

And he was always there when the people gave a call.

He did all the jobs that needed to be done;

He always stood his ground when a smaller man would run.

(chorus)

And its There but for Fortune wrote the sixties balladeer

And I’m Going to Say It Now, he wanted us to hear.

And the rising of the people will be sung about again;

And those Too Many Martyrs live on through the power of his pen.

(chorus)

Now they sing out his praises on every distant shore

But so few remember what he was fighting for.

Oh why sing the songs and forget about the aim?

He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same.

(chorus)

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