Sunday, 30 March 2008

The North American Folk Music Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945-1980

Phil Ochs had been one of the darlings of the 'great boom'; his song 'I Ain't Marching Anymore' became an anthem for the 1960s generation. However, Ochs found that, by the early 1970s, his very straightforward style of protest songwriting was no longer appropriate or acceptable. In order to adapt to changing times, he became a nostalgia artist, performing songs of the 1950s; he recognised that the style of songwriting which had brought him to prominence in the early 1960s was simply outdated: '[The old protest songs are] too obvious, too easy. Just say what Nixon's doing and putting it into a rhyme scheme. And it's embarrassing to sing.' As the 1970s progressed, however, Ochs found that the new musical order of 1970s had fatally damaged his creativity. Steeped increasingly in alcoholism and despair, Ochs committed suicide in 1976. Brian Walsh, who saw Phil Ochs perform at the Toronto Riverboat, considered the singer's story to be symbolic of the fate of 1960s idealism:
Phil Ochs kind of personified the pathos, for me, of the sixties. Here's the guy who ... was writing protest music that was better than Bob Dylan's ... His protest music was incredible, powerful stuff. And then the Chicago Convention happens, in 1968. And it breaks him. It breaks him how ... how so many of the hippies were all talk and no action. Dylan breaks him by ... by releasing Nashville Skyline ... For Ochs it was ... not the electric guitar, that wasn't the problem. It was ... that he was making music of no consequence. That was the sell-out.

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