Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Neil Young Nation

by Kevin Chong

"The Riverboat was the pre-eminent coffehouse," said Jennings. "It was run by a German immigrant named Bernie Fiedler, who was a coffee salesman originally. Fiedler designed it to look like the inside of a riverboat, so there were pine-paneled walls with brass portholes." The Riverboat was a long narrow basement room that sat about 120 people. The seats were booths, and no seat was farther than fifty feet from the stage. It was an intimate space, especially for big-name acts like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell. "There was always a lineup. On the biggest nights, Fiedler would turn over the crowd several times. There'd be a seven o'clock show and an eight-thirty show and a ten o'clock show. Visiting celebrities had to go to the Riverboat. Bernie Fiedler booked them all. He turned it into the showcase venue in Yorkville. And it was a launching pad for a lot of up-and-coming singer-songwriters."


After Four to Go came and went, Neil tried remaking himself as a folksinger. "He had his twelve-string and people would often see this tall, skinny figure walking along Yorkville Avenue. He played mostly at open mike nights at different coffehouses like the Half Beat, the New Gate of Cleve, and the Cellar." Young would cover songs by Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and do originals like "Sugar Mountain."

Friday, 25 December 2009

The Declared Enemy: Texts and Interviews

by Jean Genet

A few hours before going to the convention, where our free and easy ways stunned the police and made them suspicious, we took part in the peace march organized by David Dellinger in Grant Park. Thousands of young people were there listening peacefully to Phil Ochs who was singing, and to others who were talking; we were covered with flowers. A symbolic procession set off toward the slaughterhouse. A row of blacks in front, then behind them, in rows of eight, everyone who wanted to join the demonstration. No one got very far: more potbellies charged, throwing tear gas at the young people. Trucks fill with armed soldiers moved endlessly up and down the streets of Chicago.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Phil Ochs Covers: False Prophets - One More Parade

How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger

by David King Dunaway

Dylan's departure from the folk music community might have affected Seeger less had it not opened a floodgate of recriminations. A Sing Out! forum on topical song produced unexpectedly bitter responses: Pete's brother-in-law Ewan MacColl (Peggy Seeger's husband) wrote, "The folk magazines seem to compete with each other in the hunt for superlatives with which to describe Bobby [Dylan] and Phil [Ochs] and Tom [Paxton] and Peter [Seeger] and all the rest of the mostest, bestest, youngest and newest." (These were strong words, from a member of the family.) Then, a community organizer and poet, Don West, called Seeger a publicity-seeking hero.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada

by John Hagan

I visited Toronto for the first time in the summer of 1968 and on returning to the United States spent an August evening listening to Phil Ochs sing in Chicago's Grant Park across from the Democratic Convention hotels the night before the infamous police riot. The brutal images of the Chicago convention are still familiar to most Americans, but it is less well known that Toronto was then also a city coming alive. The American ghetto, described in Chapter 3 of this book and in the Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants that led me there, was taking form in the Baldwin Street neighborhood just south of the University of Toronto. The first arrivals, the "draft dodgers," were soon joined in growing numbers by the "deserters." This area of the city was a benign but unruly communion of countercultural entrepreneurship and anti-war activism. We thought of ourselves as war resisters as well as draft and military resisters, but most of us still do not mind being called "dodgers," for this term still has a positive resonance in Canada. The mood then was a mixture of desperation and excitement; the atmosphere was electric.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

Phil Ochs The Movie: There But For Fortune
Watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary film, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune, on the film's new website. Additional clips on the site include an interview with director Kenneth Bowser, plus excerpts from interviews with Billy Bragg, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Christopher Hitchens, Sean Penn and Peter Yarrow.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture

by Richard W. Slatta

In 1964 Phil Ochs wrote "The Ballad of Alfred Packer." The chorus runs:

They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief;
It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. (Ballad of Alferd Packer Web Site)

Ochs published the song in Broadside magazine, which also featured a cartoon with Republican politicians celebrating the fact that Alfred had eaten five Democrats.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Phil Ochs, Fondly Recalled, Is Never Really Lost

By John Pietaro

Another December, another Phil Ochs birth anniversary. Wow, he would have been 69 this year. It’s also time for the stream of annual Ochs birthday concerts which have been occurring all over the nation each December since the singer’s untimely death in 1976. The movement has not had Phil Ochs to call upon for a long time, but none on the Left have forgotten his impact – and the impact his music continues to have upon us.

[read more]

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music

by Philip Auslander

For Ennis, the performance that epitomizes the pause point in rock was Phil Ochs's appearance at New York's Carnegie Hall in April 1970. Ochs had made a career as an unremittingly political folk protest singer and was considered one of the least compromising practitioners of that idiom. By his own testimony, Ochs was so disturbed by the political developments of the late 1960s that he "went crazy and didn't care anymore" (qtd. in Wilson 44). At Carnegie Hall, he appeared on stage wearing a gold lamé suit modeled after one of Elvis Presley's stage outfits and interspersed rock and roll and country songs from the 1950s with his usual repertoire of folk protest.

Ochs was roundly booed by much of his audience, presumably because they saw his embodiment of Elvis as a retreat from the political engagement of the 1960s back to the conformism of the 1950s against which the counterculture had rebelled. But I shall emphasize a different aspect of Ochs's performance that may also have set him at odds with the counterculture: wearing the gold lamé suit was clearly a theatrical gesture in conflict with a counterculture that was ambivalent, at best, about theatricality, especially in musical performances. Although it has long been conventional to describe the political protests and Yippie manifestations of the 1960s as street theater, I argue that the counterculture's deep investment in the idea of authenticity entailed a necessary antipathy to theatricality. This antipathy derived from three ideological commitments: the emphasis on spontaneity and living in the present moment, the desire for community, and the suspicion that spectacle served the interests of the social and political status quo.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Phil Ochs Covers: Bob Fox & Stu Luckley - The Thresher

War and American Popular Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia

By M. Paul Holsinger

Spanning more than 400 years of America's past, this book brings together, for the first time, entries on the ways Americans have mythologized both the many wars the nation has fought and the men and women connected with those conflicts. Focusing on significant representations in popular culture, it provides information on fiction, drama, poems, songs, film and television, art, memorials, photographs, documentaries, and cartoons. From the colonial wars before 1775 to our 1997 peacekeeper role in Bosnia, the work briefly explores the historical background of each war period, enabling the reader to place each of the more than 500 entries into their proper context.


OCHS, PHIL (Songwriter-Folksinger). No single songwriter more clearly expressed the anger and frustration felt by thousands of college-age youth over the United States' participation in the war in Vietnam than did Phil Ochs. His name was synonymous with protest, and his 1964 "I Ain't Marchin' Any More" became the rallying cry of millions of students determined not to participate in the war. "Peace," "treason," "love," or "reason" - it made no difference what one's rationale for refusing to fight might be, Ochs sang, as long as, in the end one could state forcibly: "I Ain't Marchin' Any More." His "Cops of the World," penned two years later, fiercely pilloried the nation's armed forces, and that same year's "Draft Dodger Rag" made clear his position in regard to joining such units. When he went to Washington, D.C., in October 1967 to protest the war at the Pentagon, he sang his own "I Declare the War Is Over" to uproarious applause from a mostly youthful audience of fellow protesters.

Despite his anger at the government's role in Southeast Asia, Ochs had an unbounding faith in the American democratic system. After the assassination of Robert Kennedy and his own arrest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, however, his optimism waned drastically. Though more than 50,000 persons cheered him in May 1975, when he and other folk singers in New York City celebrated the official end of the war in Vietnam, Ochs grew deeply depressed. A year later, he committed suicide at the age of thirty-four. Five long-playing albums of his musical work, much of it nonpolitical and some quite lyrical, remain, but it is as the 1960's and the antiwar movement's quintessential protest singer that Ochs will always be remembered.


Schumacher, Michael. There But for Fortune: The Life of Phil Ochs. New York: Hyperion, 1996.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs

By Peter Blecha

From ancient Rome through the 1980s "Explicit Lyrics" labelling crusade and on to the infamous Taliban regime, repressive governments and self-appointed moral guardians have sought to limit musical expression. In this extensively researched ode to scandal, Peter Blecha recounts the travails of musicians who have dared to air "unacceptable" topics. Filled with several centuries' worth of raunchy sex ditties, morbid murder ballads, blasphemous satanic songs, paeans to intoxicating substances, and radical political anthems, Taboo Tunes lays the censors' stories bare.

Far from merely a recounting dusty history, Taboo Tunes casts a much-needed spotlight on current concerns over civil liberties and artistic freedom in the post-9/11 world.


Take the case of poor Phil Ochs. Here was a notable protest singer, a veteran of myriad civil rights and peace rallies, an effective rabble-rouser, and a genuine thorn in the side of the Establishment - a fact greatly appreciated by his fans, though less so by the FBI. After having been a recording artist with a major label contract for a half-decade (and with several albums to his credit), by 1968 he had yet to score with any kind of "hit" record. That's when he finally came up with his best-ever shot at scoring on the charts - a brilliantly cynical masterpiece featuring sing-along lyrics about the hypocrisy of modern society, all wedded to a fun, rollicking, ragtimey tune called "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends." Upon its release, the darn thing was embraced by a promising number of radio markets and began climbing a few regional sales charts. Hopes were high among fans that he'd finally gotten the shot at the "big time" that he'd always deserved.

But then the tides suddenly shifted. Overnight, it seemed, various stations began axing the song from their playlists. Initial word was that the disc was being shunned on the grounds that it "promoted drugs" - a criticism which, for once, was technically accurate since the lyrics did feature a comparative evaluation ("Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer"). This explanation seemed a bit disingenuous though, especially when stories began to filter out that Nixon was leaning on the (theoretically independent) FCC, who were strong-arming radio managers and advising them to shun Ochs in general. While it can be debated which of Ochs's ideas troubled them the most, it is certain that the drug lyric issue could be the most easily employed as a rationale for governmental intervention. This would not be the first time, nor the last, that a political gadfly has been trumped by the playing of the drug card.


Since 1978, the Freedom of Information Act has allowed the public to review many secret government files, and through that process it was revealed that as far back as 1963 the FBI had taken an interest in protest singer Phil Ochs. As a regular at civil rights rallies - and an early and outspoken critic of the undeclared war in Vietnam in tunes like "Draft Dodger Rag," "I Kill Therefore I Am," "What Are You Fighting For?", and the classic "I Ain't Marching Anymore" (of which Ochs quipped, "The fact that you won't be hearing this song over the radio is more than enough justification for the writing of it") - Ochs had become a real thorn in the Establishment's side. According to agency Director J. Edgar Hoover, it was Ochs's "propensity towards violence and antipathy toward good order and government" that won the singer his place on their dreaded Security Index.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Songs of the Vietnam Conflict

By James Perone


Historian Ray Pratt describes "Draft Dodger Rag" and its contemporary "I Ain't Marching Anymore" as quickly having achieved "anthem status" in the peace movement. Pratt also writes that Ochs's albums All the News That's Fit to Sing, containing "One More Parade," and I Ain't Marching Anymore, containing both "Draft Dodger Rag" and the title song, became "essentials of the record libraries of activist students and early opponents of the war" (Pratt 1998, 176).

"Draft Dodger Rag" consists of several stanzas, each constructed of two identical eight-measure phrases, in which the singer details a litany of ailments and perversions he has that, he hopes, will make him unfit for military service. The "Rag" is actually misnamed; it contains no classical ragtime syncopations at all. What it does contain is a boom-chuck style guitar accompaniment (in Ochs's recordings of the song) suggesting the left hand part of a piano rag, and the type of dotted rhythms found in the post-ragtime, early jazz piano work of Jelly Roll Morton. In terms of the anti-war movement and the war resistance movement, the song's appearance coincides with the first of the publicized draft-card burnings related to Vietnam and the start of mass attempts to avoid the draft by seeking Conscientious Objector status and various types of deferments. The history of this resistance movement is detailed in journalist/draft resister Roger Neville Williams' book The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada (Williams 1971).

Easily Phil Ochs's best-known and best-remembered composition on the subject of the Vietnam Conflict, "I Ain't Marching Anymore" found a home at numerous anti-war rallies from 1965 through the end of the war. Ochs's magnum opus was printed in Broadside #54 (January 20, 1965) and Sing Out! 16/1 (February-March 1966). While right-wing writers called the song "notorious," "un-American propaganda" (Noebel 1966, 225, 226), and "subversive" (Allen 1969), a presumably left-wing writer in a letter to Broadside stated, "Phil Ochs speaks more than any other American I know of today for a segment of American youth which is discontented and restless and can not find the channels through which to register their discontent and bring about needed changes" (O.S. 1965, 12). Ironically, at about the time of the publication of "I Ain't Marching Anymore," Ochs himself told a Village Voice interviewer, "I'm writing to make money. I write about Cuba and Mississippi [and presumably Vietnam] out of an inner need for expression, not to change the world. The roots of my songs are psychological, not political" (Eliot 1979, 93).

Despite the reasons for Phil Ochs's songwriting, despite the deep feelings some listeners had about songs like "I Ain't Marching Anymore," despite the concern expressed by right-wing writers over the politics of Ochs, and despite the commercial popularity of folk revival and folk-rock in the early and mid-1960's, even an anti-war classic like "I Ain't Marching Anymore" made virtually no commercial impact. In the case of Ochs, context reigned supreme, and the context for Ochs's music was live performance, primarily at peace rallies. The more politically charged the atmosphere when Ochs performed his anti-war songs, the better they were received. As noted rock critic Greil Marcus writes, "That's why when Phil Ochs gets up to sing protest songs to people getting ready for a demonstration, telling them that they are right and that their opponents are wrong, he always sounds flat and empty compared to the singing that begins when the cops move in" (Marcus 1969, 91-2). By the time of "I Ain't Marching Anymore," Ochs was supplanting Bob Dylan as the favorite protest singer of the anti-war movement. As sometimes Broadside contributor Paul Wolfe wrote in reviewing the two musicians and their impact in the protest movement, the comparison between Ochs and Dylan at the time was "meaning vs. innocuousness, sincerity vs. utter disregard for the tastes of the audience, idealistic principle vs. self-conscious egotism" (Wolfe 1972, 148).

"I Ain't Marching Anymore," an up tempo protest number, usually sung by Ochs to his own guitar accompaniment, finds the musician picking out various American snapshot battles of the past, the Battle of New Orleans, the German trenches of World War I, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and so forth, responding that with what he has learned about the futility of war, he has decided that he will not march anymore. The song's chorus clearly paints war as a generational issue, with the older generation always being responsible for initiating wars, and the younger generation always suffering the deaths associated with those wars. The song was important not only at the more general peace rallies, but played an important role in the early resistance movement, voicing the feelings of draft resisters and military deserters.

Buffy Sainte-Marie on fighting LBJ and being inspired by Sesame Street

"My music was coming out of the student movement, there was a message and we wanted to be heard. Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, people were doing things rich in content, but the Mamas & the Papas were not – they were professionally packaged, but what interested me was the truth."


Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Seventh Stream: The Emergence of Rocknroll in American Popular Music

By Philip H. Ennis

Philip Ennis presents a major social and cultural study of the origins and evolution of "rocknroll." With masterful command of general trends and telling details, he describes the artistic, economic, and political context that nurtured this radically new popular music. This "seventh stream," which drew from existing forms of pop music, began as a youth movement of rebellion and remains a worldwide banner of youth in search of alternatives. "Rocknroll" emerged, he shows persuasively, from the successive meeting and melding of the other six "streams"--pop, black pop, country pop, jazz, folk, and gospel. He chronicles how these were shaped by struggles over musical property rights, and by the new technologies of radio and phonograph record. The most decisive clash was between the New York based music publishers and the radio broadcasters. Their decades long contest resulted in many cultural changes. The basic unit shifted from sheet music to the phonograph record. The radio disc jockey in small, independent radio stations became the new focal point for all the popular musics. New venues, audiences, and talent appeared throughout the nation. The appearance of "rocknroll" marked a significant cultural moment, argues Ennis. This "seventh stream" was part of an explosive efflorescence in all the American arts after World War II. Its early stars--Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley--built a pantheon of performers with deep roots in all the other streams.


For Dylan, the incompatible elements of art, commerce, and politics in the folk-rock antagonism were resolved almost instantly in 1964. He couldn't get over the fact that the Beatles had eight of the top ten songs. The following views, reported by Anthony Scaduto, state both Phil Ochs' and Bob Dylan's stance at this crucial moment.

[Ochs:] I thought then that there was no end to what he [Dylan] could do now. I thought that he could become Elvis Presley on that level. Essentially he could physically represent rural America, all of America and put out fifteen gold records in a row. . . . My feeling at that time was that he did want that. . . . What happened then was the Beatles got in the way. Dylan wrote the lyrics, and the Beatles captured the mass music.
[Dylan to Ochs:] The stuff you're writing is bullshit, because politics is bullshit. It's all unreal. The only thing that's real is inside you. Your feelings. Just look at the world you're writing about and you'll see you're wasting your time. The world is, well . . . it's just absurd.

The bitchy tone of these words is probably not characterological. The interpersonal style of that Village club scene, set by the manners of the various scene-makers, ranged from southern-spiced barbs and New York brusqueness, through the normal show business character assassination, to black confrontational rhetoric. Whatever the motivation, Dylan and Ochs were responding to severe pressures. The folk stream was being devoured by the pop stream. Everyone in both camps was highly nervous about choosing the terms of the meal. Few could maintain a completely graceful composure under the stress, when hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake in every record and a real shot at the big time was in the offing. The battleground was mainly over the integrity of the performer, his choice of songs, his inclusion of profanity, and issues of dress and manners. The rules of the game played by the pop stream were not the same as in the folk stream. Art, commerce, and politics had different meanings, were given different priorities. Dylan was clear, again according to Scaduto, on where he wanted to be. It was with the kids, and they were wise to the futility of student protest.


Emblematic of this moment of dissolution and the courage of some parts of the rock life to fight it, and fight in the same terms that had spawned rocknroll in the first place, was the action of Phil Ochs, one of the veteran folk singers of the early 1960s New York Village scene. He had been a stalwart and cheerfully unyielding singer-songwriter at the political end of the rock stream, a friendly antagonist of Dylan, but committed to the fusion of music and politics. After nearly two years of recovering from the defeats of 1968 at the Chicago National Democratic Convention, he returned to Carnegie Hall for a solo concert. John S. Wilson, senior jazz critic of the New York Times, reviewed the event. Its reprinting here in full is merited, I think, not only because of the drama of the evening but because it illuminates rock's pause period more fully than any other (fig. 12-3).

Ochs' personal musical development, from Elvis to the Kingston Trio and then to politics, was probably the route taken by millions. His plea to acknowledge and continue the journey may have succeeded that magical evening in Carnegie Hall. The gold lamé suit (see figure 12-4), also worn by Elvis, certainly was a shocker. It didn't work anywhere else, though, and it worked for him only partially and painfully. After several years of touring and a benefit concert in 1974 for victims of the Chilean junta with Dylan, he committed suicide in 1976.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the Left

By Stanley Rothman & S. Robert Lichter

With a New Introduction by the Authors

When Roots of Radicalism first appeared, Nathan Glazer noted "this is a major work on the relationship between radical politics and psychological development." He went on to predict "no one will be able to write about the left and radicalism without taking it into account." Now finally available in a paperback edition, with a new introduction, the reader can evaluate just how prescient the authors are in their review of the student radical movement. Replete with interviews of radical activists, their provocative book paints a disturbing picture.

The book raises critical questions about much previous social science research and ultimately about the reason an entire generation of Americans was so infatuated with the radical mystique. Robert A. Nisbet called the book "an extraordinarily skilled fusion of historical and psychological approaches to one of the most explosive decades in American social history." Robert E. Lane added "it will be prudent to read Rothman and Lichter along with our well worn copies of Keniston and Fromm." Writing in Political Psychology, Dan E. Thomas argued "the [book] is arguably the most important and definitely the most provocative book in the field of personality and politics to have appeared in the past several years." Recently, in Forbes, Peter Britmelow referred to Roots of Radicalism as "Rothman's main achievement as a political scientist...his definitive study of the 1960s New Left."

In the new introduction, the authors review the initial reception of Roots of Radicalism and its subsequent treatment. They also review the major literature on the causes, course, and consequences of the student movement of the 1960s which has appeared since the publication of the book. Finally, they update their own analysis.


Phil Ochs's life and death bears a certain resemblance to that of Bob Starobin, although the pathology was clearly more serious. Unfortunately, we know little about the dynamics of his early life, despite a book-length biography and a profile in Esquire, both quite sympathetic. Ochs, a folk/protest singer of the 1960s, thrived on the excitement of mass rallies and the cheers of large numbers of people. His commitment to revolution and hostility to the Establishment were rather incongruously linked with admiration for the macho "gentile" heroes of western movies. As one friend noted: "The interesting thing about him was that he was sixty percent cultural conservative and forty percent political radical. He loved John Wayne, Audie Murphy, William Buckley and Che Guevera."

As the Vietnam War ended and protest faded, Ochs's talent seemed to decline as well. He also grew increasingly paranoid. Convinced that the CIA was going to kill him, he carried about a number of weapons, including a hammer and sometimes a pitchfork. He hired bodyguards and bought an interest in a bar in New York's Soho, which he intended to make the center of the revolution. This activity led to very little, and, given the loss of the narcissistic gratification provided by large audiences, Ochs's pathology grew more severe. He created a whole new personality called "Lewt Train." He would call up his friends to tell them that he had killed Phil Ochs and was just using his body. Eventually Lewt Train became John Train, a persona with grandiose ideas about such exploits as invading Chile on horseback or taking Fidel Castro on a tour of America: "Ochs became a shifting combination of all the heroes he had ever admired: John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Yasir Arafat, Howard Hughes - men of power and action. . . . At times it almost seemed as if he were living a movie and watching it at the same time." He became involved in drunken brawls again and again, threatening to kill people; always trying to establish his masculinity and create the revolution. It was to no avail. His hyperactivity was followed by a severe depression that ended in suicide. After he died, a large memorial concert was held for him. Thousands of the people in the Movement came. To them, Ochs was a tragic hero.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide

By Robert Christgau

Christgau on James Brown: "When he modulates to the bridge it's like the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters. After that he could describe his cars for three [LP] sides and get away with it." Christgau on Carly Simon: "If a horse could sing in a monotone, the horse would sound like Carly Simon, only a horse wouldn't rhyme 'yacht,' 'apricot,' and 'gavotte.'" Christgau on Van Morrison: "This is a man who gets stoned on a drink of water and urges us to turn our radios all the way into the mystic. Visionary hooks his specialty." Christgau on Lou Reed: "Reed sounds like he's imitating his worst enemy, himself." (Lou Reed on Robert Christgau: "What a moron! Studying rock and roll. I can't believe it!")

Robert Christgau: the man who has listened to more rock records than anyone else in the country, the record reviewer for The Village Voice for almost 20 years, probably the most influential rock critic in America. Christgau's Rock Albums of the '70s: the definitive guide to nearly 3,000 albums of the decade that brought us progressive rock, country rock, glam rock, funk, disco, punk, heavy metal, and new wave. An indispensable book.


Phil Ochs: Greatest Hits (A&M '70). Sporting his gold lame suit and boasting that "50 Phil Ochs fans can't be wrong!," the Singing Yippie bids for pop power once again on this prematurely entitled work of art. Van Dyke Park's classy, countrified production suits Phil's strange lyricism a lot better than the baroque excesses of Pleasures of the Harbor, but in the end Ochs's compulsive sweetness does him in anyway. It's always been one of the prime paradoxes of folkiedom that our most astringent protester should come on like Richard Dyer-Bennett gone Nashville, and the sad truth is that the lone protest number is the weakest cut on the disappointing second side. But even the first side, as strong as any pop Ochs has written to date, works in spite of his voice. Fond as I am of "James Dean of Indiana," I think it would be even more haunting done deadpan, by Arlo Guthrie or Tom T. Hall. B-

Monday, 2 November 2009

Bob Dylan and Selections from the Newport Folk Festival - July 26, 1963

The Friday evening concert (July 26) of Newport 1963 marked the debut performance of Bob Dylan at the festival, which helped to create his reputation as one of the greatest American folk singer-songwriters of the 1960s. The show that night, which ran from 8:30-11:30 p.m., also featured the Freedom Singers, Jean Redpath, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary.

Video footage from that night:

Peter, Paul and Mary - "If I Had a Hammer":

Bob Dylan - "Talkin' World War III Blues":

Bob Dylan with Joan Baez - "With God on Our Side":

Bob Dylan - "Only a Pawn in Their Game":

Bob Dylan with Pete Seeger, the Freedom Singers, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary - "Blowin' in the Wind":

Other songs performed that night:

Bill Monroe - "Uncle Pen":

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - "Crow Jane Blues":

Jean Carignan - "Reel" (audio from a Newport show):

Jean Carignan - "Devil's Dream" (audio from a Newport show):

Peter, Paul and Mary - "Tell It on the Mountain":

Doc Watson - "Every Day Dirt":

Doc Watson - "Country Blues":

Bob Dylan - "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues":

Bob Dylan - "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall":

Ensemble - "We Shall Overcome":

The complete set list from the evening concert reel-to-reel tapes is as follows:

1. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - Mule Skinner Blues
2. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - Uncle Pen
3. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - Devil's Dream
4. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - Molly and Tenbrooks
5. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - I Am a Pilgrim
6. Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys - Rawhide
7. Raun MacKinnon - I Am Going Home
8. Raun MacKinnon - When I'm Gone
9. Raun MacKinnon - Medgar Evers Lullaby
10. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Crow Jane Blues
11. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - I Woke Up This Morning and Could Hardly See
12. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - If You Don't Want to Be My Neighbor, Please Be My Friend
13. Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Movin' to Kansas City
14. Hélène Baillargeon & Jean Carignan - ("songs of French Canada")
15. Peter, Paul and Mary - Tell It on the Mountain
16. Peter, Paul and Mary - Settle Down (Goin' Down That Highway)
17. Peter, Paul and Mary - Blue (2 versions)
18. Peter, Paul and Mary - 500 Miles
19. Peter, Paul and Mary - Puff, the Magic Dragon
20. Peter, Paul and Mary - Blowin' in the Wind
21. Peter, Paul and Mary - If I Had My Way
22. Peter, Paul and Mary - If I Had a Hammer
23. The Freedom Singers - Trying to Make Georgia My Home
24. The Freedom Singers - Been Down Into the South
25. The Freedom Singers - Woke Up
26. The Freedom Singers - Get on Board
27. The Freedom Singers - Guide My Feet
28. Jean Redpath - Dowie Dens o' Yarrow
29. Jean Redpath - Muckin' o' Geordie's Byre
30. Jean Redpath - The Song of the Seals
31. Doc Watson - Every Day Dirt
32. Doc Watson - The Train That Carried My Girl from Town
33. Doc Watson - Country Blues
34. Doc Watson - What Does the Deep Sea Say (with Bill Monroe)
35. Doc Watson - What Would You Give in Exchange (with Bill Monroe)
36. Doc Watson - Feast Here Tonight (with Bill Monroe)
37. Bob Dylan - Talkin' World War III Blues
38. Bob Dylan - With God on Our Side (with Joan Baez)
39. Bob Dylan - Only a Pawn in Their Game
40. Bob Dylan - Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues
41. Bob Dylan - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall
42. Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the Wind (with Pete Seeger, the Freedom Singers, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary)
43. Bob Dylan - We Shall Overcome (with Pete Seeger, the Freedom Singers, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary)

Friday, 30 October 2009

Red Dust and Broadsides: A Joint Autobiography

By Agnes "Sis" Cunningham and Gordon Friesen

Edited by Ronald D. Cohen

Foreword by Pete Seeger

Perhaps best known for Broadside, the influential magazine they founded in 1962, Agnes "Sis" Cunningham and Gordon Friesen have long been renowned figures on the American left. In this book, these two dedicated social activists - Sis the folk musician and Gordon the radical journalist - offer a spirited account of their personal and political odyssey. The story is illustrated with numerous photographs and drawings.

Born into poverty in rural Oklahoma, further shaped by the hardships of the "dustbowl" Depression years, Sis and Gordon were already committed to radical causes when they met and married in 1941. A short time later they moved to New York City, where they befriended Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Sis joined the folk protest group the Almanac Singers, and Gordon continued his work as a journalist.

Although blacklisted for their political views during the McCarthy era, Sis and Gordon persevered and eventually launched Broadside, which they continued to produce for almost twenty years. The magazine was instrumental in promoting the careers of many singer-songwriters, publicing the first works of such artists as Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Phil Ochs, Buffy Sinate-Marie, and Tom Paxton, as well as the works of more established figures, including Malvina Reynolds and Pete Seeger. Indeed, Broadside helped give birth to a musical revival that energized the country and forged a vital link between the folk music of the 1930s and 1940s and the urban folk revivalists of the 1960s and 1970s.


By the fall Phil Ochs became a contributor, and throughout most of 1963 we hardly put out an issue that didn't contain one or two Ochs songs.


Phil Ochs started coming within a few months and continued to come long after we discontinued the monthly meetings. He always visited us when in New York after his move to California; he still put his songs on tape for us, and Gordon and I taped long interviews with him, which we transcribed and printed in Broadside. We later recorded some of the conversations on L-P albums through Folkways Records. He spent a lot of time with us during the summer and into the winter of 1975, talking hour after hour about being under surveillance of the FBI. Phil was quite ill, so we taped none of this. But later we confirmed what he said by sending to the Freedom of Information Act for a report on him and receiving over four hundred pages.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Bob Dylan - The Times They Are A-Changin' - Lyrics/Chords

Bob Dylan live in concert, November 1963by Bob Dylan

As published in Broadside ("The National Topical Song Magazine") #39 - February 7, 1964


G                   Em      C            G
Come gather 'round, people, wherever you roam
Em C D
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone
Am D
If your time to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won't come again
Don't speak too soon for the wheel's still in spin
And there's no telling who it is naming
For the loser now will be later to win
'Cause the times they are a-changin'

Come Senators, Congressmen, please heed the call
Don't block up the doorway, don't stand in the hall
'Cause he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
'Cause the battle outside, raging
Will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
'Cause the times they are a-changin'

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand
'Cause the times they are a-changin'

The line it is drawn and the curse it is cast
The slowest one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'

© 1963 Witmark Music

Monday, 26 October 2009

Pete Seeger - A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

An unlikely Dylan cover by Pete Seeger. First, a live version:

A studio version, where Seeger again puts his own spin on the song:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival & American Society, 1940-1970

By Ronald D. Cohen

For a brief period from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, folk music captured a mass audience in the United States as college students and others swarmed to concerts by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. In this comprehensive study, Ronald D. Cohen reconstructs the history of this singular cultural moment, tracing its origins to the early decades of the twentieth century.

Drawing on scores of interviews and numerous manuscript collections, as well as his own extensive files, Cohen shows how a broad range of traditions - from hillbilly, gospel, blues, and sea shanties to cowboy, ethnic, and political protest music - all contributed to the genre known as folk. He documents the crucial work of John Lomax and other collectors who, with the assistance of recording companies, preserved and distributed folk music in 1920s. During the 1930s and 1940s, the emergence of Left-wing politics and the rise of the commercial music marketplace helped to stimulate wider interest in folk music. Stars emerged, such as Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, and Josh White. With the success of the Weavers and the Kingston Trio in the 1950s, the stage was set for the full-blown "folk revival" of the early 1960s.

Centered in New York's Greenwich Village and sustained by a flourishing record industry, the revival spread to college campuses and communities across the country. It included a wide array of performers and a supporting cast of journalists, club owners, record company executives, political activists, managers, and organizers. By 1965 the boom had passed its peak, as rock and roll came to dominate the marketplace, but the folk revival left an enduring musical legacy in American culture.


Broadside attracted many new singer-songwriters. Via Ohio State University. Phil Ochs arrived in the Village in mid-1962 and participated in his first Folk City hootenanny in July, doing more country than folk, but he soon moved into protest music. Gil Turner brought him around to the Broadside meetings and he became a regular. When the editors called for a song about James Meredith's troubles at the University of Mississippi, Ochs responded in November with "Ballad of Oxford, Mississippi." Ochs, Dylan, and their colleagues developed an intense and sometimes competitive fellowship. Josh Dunson described one stimulating taping session at the Friesens' in Broadside no. 20, with Turner, Dylan, Seeger, Ochs and Happy Traum. Dylan sang "Masters of War" followed by "Playboys and Playgirls Ain't Gonna Run My World," then Ochs did one about striking miners in Hazard, Kentucky. "We were all out of breath without breathing hard," Dunson concluded, "that feeling you get when a lot of good things happen all at once. Pete expressed it, leaning back in his chair, saying slowly in dreamy tones: 'You know, in the past five months I haven't heard as many good songs and as much good music as I heard here tonight.'"

Moe Asch, who early on gave Broadside financial support, suggested issuing an album of songs by the regulars under a new Broadside Records label. Ochs, Turner, Matt McGinn, Seeger, Peter LaFarge, Mark Spoelstra, Happy Traum, and Dylan (aka "Blind Boy Grunt" because of his Columbia Records contract) gathered at the Cue Recording studio to cut the sides for Broadside Ballads, which appeared in late 1963. Five of the fifteen songs were Dylan compositions, starting with the New World Singers' performance of "Blowin' in the Wind."

Phil Ochs Covers: The Four Seasons - New Town

Friday, 23 October 2009

Amchitka: The 1970 Concert That Launched Greenpeace

Phil Ochs
1. Intro Irving Stowe 1:38
2. Intro Phil Ochs 00:11
3. The Bells (E. A. Poe/P. Ochs) 3:09
4. Rhythms of Revolution 4:25
5. Chords of Fame 2:47
6. I Ain’t Marching Anymore 3:01
7. Joe Hill 7:10
8. Changes 3:36
9. I’m Going To Say It Now 2:57
10. No More Songs 3:49
James Taylor
11. Intro James Taylor 00:32
12. Something In The Way She Moves 3:09
13. Fire and Rain 3:52
14. Carolina In My Mind 4:39
15. Blossom 2:30
16. Riding On A Railroad 3:04
17. Sweet Baby James 3:27
18. You Can Close Your Eyes 2:31

Joni Mitchell
1. Intro Joni Mitchell 00:17
2. Big Yellow Taxi/Bony Maronie (Larry Williams) 4:00
3. Cactus Tree 4:28
4. The Gallery 4:26
5. Hunter 2:36
6. My Old Man 4:29
7. For Free 5:08
8. Woodstock 5:16
9. Carey/Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan) 10:13
10. A Case Of You 4:44
11. The Circle Game 2:38

For sale through Greenpeace beginning November 10.

Toronto, Canada — Greenpeace Canada is set to release an exclusive two-disc, re-mastered live recording Amchitka, the 1970 concert that launched Greenpeace, featuring Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and the late Phil Ochs. The concert, a fundraiser to protest U.S. nuclear bomb tests near Amchitka, Alaska sees a first-time release on 10 November. The CD is available exclusively through Greenpeace and all proceeds will benefit the organization.
“We are pleased to offer this musical slice of history to Greenpeace supporters and music lovers around the world,” said Bruce Cox, Greenpeace Canada’s executive director. “This CD is a piece of musical magic. It contains never before heard songs, duets and chatter that capture the confidence and hope of the times. It carries a timeless message that change is possible.”

The concert, which took place at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia on 16 October 1970, was organized by former trial lawyer and activist Irving Stowe. As co-director of the Don’t Make A Wave Committee, he raised enough money to send 11 peace activists by boat, christened The Greenpeace, to the Aleutian Island of Amchitka. The activists were unsuccessful in stopping the tests, but their voyage in 1971 marks the birth of the worldwide organization known today as Greenpeace.

“The Amchitka voyage would not have happened without the concert, and so we owe a debt of gratitude to Irving Stowe, and the talents of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Phil Ochs for generating the momentum that ultimately launched Greenpeace,” continued Cox. “The activists that traveled to Amchitka set the example that has guided and defined Greenpeace: non-violent direct action to protect our environment and motivate societal change.”

The upcoming release features concert performances by then-rising Canadian star Joni Mitchell and a 22-year old James Taylor. Protest singer, Phil Ochs kicks off the CD. Earlier that year Mitchell had been named Top Female Performer of 1970 by Melody Maker magazine and Taylor had released his major breakthrough album Sweet Baby James.

Of the historic concert, Amchitka emcee and Canadian broadcaster, Terry David Mulligan says, “The crew of ‘The Greenpeace’ took hold of our hearts and minds and pulled all of us along. As always, music carried the day.”

Greenpeace is an independently funded organization that works to protect the environment. The organization challenges government and industry to halt harmful practices by negotiating solutions, conducting scientific research, introducing clean alternatives, carrying out peaceful acts of civil disobedience and educating and engaging the public. For more information on Greenpeace visit

Phil Ochs Covers: David Rovics - Draft Dodger Rag

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bob Dylan and Selections from the Newport Folk Festival - July 27, 1963

The Saturday morning set of Newport 1963 (July 27) on Porch 1 was hosted by Jean Ritchie and featured Sam Hinton, Bess Lomax Hawes, Clarence Ashley, Judy Collins, Paul Clayton, Joan Baez, Dock Boggs, Raun MacKinnon, Doc Watson, Jane Chatfield, Bob Davenport, Tony Snow, Jean Redpath, Jim Garland, Tom Paxton, and Bob Dylan.

Video from that day:

Bob Dylan took the stage at the end of the set and began with a captivating performance of "North Country Blues":

He then closed off the morning set with Joan Baez and the song "With God on Our Side" (referencing Jean Redpath, who earlier had played "The Patriot Game," the inspiration behind this song):

Other songs performed that day:

Clarence Ashley - "The House Carpenter":

Judy Collins - "The Great Silkie":

Joan Baez - "The Unquiet Grave":

The complete set list was as follows:

1. Jean Ritchie - Barbara Allen
2. Sam Hinton - Great God I'm Feelin' Bad
3. Sam Hinton - Three Nights Drunk (Our Goodman)
4. Bess Lomax Hawes - An Old Lady
5. Clarence Ashley - The House Carpenter
6. Judy Collins - The Great Silkie
7. Paul Clayton - The Two Sisters
8. Jean Ritchie - (chat)
9. Joan Baez - The Unquiet Grave
10. Dock Boggs - Rowan County Crew
11. Raun MacKinnon - Ballad of Haute Midi
12. Doc Watson - Little Orphan Girl
13. Jane Chatfield - The Green Bed
14. Bob Davenport - Seven Day Drunk
15. Bob Davenport - Shoals of Herring
16. Tony Snow - Fungus
17. Jean Redpath - The Patriot Game
18. Jim Garland - The Death of Harry Simms
19. Tom Paxton - Sully's Pail
20. Bob Dylan - North Country Blues
21. Bob Dylan & Joan Baez - With God on Our Side

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Price of Dissent: Testimonies to Political Repression in America

By Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz

Bud and Ruth Schultz's vivid oral history presents the extraordinary testimony of people who experienced government repression and persecution firsthand. Drawn from three of the most significant social movements of our time--the labor, Black freedom, and antiwar movements--these engrossing interviews bring to life the experiences of Americans who acted upon their beliefs despite the price they paid for their dissent. In doing so, they--and the movements they were part of--helped shape the political and social landscape of the United States from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century.

The majority of the voices in this book belong to everyday people--workers, priests, teachers, students--but more well-known figures such as Congressman John Lewis, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Abbie Hoffman, and Daniel Ellsberg are also included. There are firsthand accounts by leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World, active early in the century; Southern Tenant Farmers Union of the 1930s; Women's Strike for Peace, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Berkeley's Free Speech Movement of the 1950s and 1960s; and the Hormel meatpackers' Local P-9 in the 1980s. Lively introductions by the authors contextualize these personal statements.

Those who tell their stories in The Price of Dissent, and others like them, faced surveillance and disruption from police agencies, such as the FBI; brutalization by local police; local ordinances and court injunctions limiting protest; inquisitions into beliefs and associations by congressional committees; prosecution under laws that curbed dissent; denaturalization and deportation; and purges under government loyalty programs. Agree with them or not, by dissenting when it was unpopular or dangerous to do so, they insisted on exercising the precious American right of free expression and preserved it for a new century's dissenters.


It did drag out from 1972 until 1975, for the final peace treaty to take place. There was vast relief that the bombing was over, that the carpet bombing of Vietnam was stopped. When the final treaty was signed, we organized the War Is Over rally. Cora Weiss from Women Strike for Peace got Joan Baez and Phil Ochs and a number of entertainers, and we had this big celebration in Central Park. But there was no overwhelming joy. I think that on an intellectual level I felt some satisfaction - you know, recognizing that our movement had some historical impact. But I wasn't happy. The carnage had been so vast. The death toll of Vietnamese was staggering. The loss of our men for nothing. Fodder. Fifty-eight thousand dead, thousands crippled. It was not the kind of situation that gave one joy.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Bob Dylan and Selections from the Newport Folk Festival - July 28, 1963

On this date on Porch 2 at the Newport Folk Festival, Pete Seeger hosted "Topical Songs and New Songwriters," which featured Jim Garland, Peter La Farge, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, The Freedom Singers, Mississippi John Hurt, Mike Settle, and Bob Dylan.

Audio/Video from Newport 1963:

Phil Ochs' set included "Too Many Martyrs" and "Talking Birmingham Jam."

Later, Mississippi John Hurt took the stage with "Candy Man Blues":

Bob Dylan's set included a performance of "Who Killed Davey Moore":

To close the set, Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger performed "Playboys and Playgirls":

Other songs performed that day:

Jim Garland - "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister":

Tom Paxton - "Ramblin' Boy":

Pete Seeger - "Tom Dooley":

Bob Dylan - "Masters of War":

The complete set list from July 28, 1963 on Porch 2 is as follows:

1. Pete Seeger - (intro regarding topical songs and new songwriters)
2. Jim Garland - I'm Crazy 'Bout You, Baby
3. Jim Garland - I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister
4. Peter La Farge - Ira Hayes
5. Peter La Farge - Custer
6. Peter La Farge - Coyote, My Little Brother
7. Tom Paxton - The Willing Conscript
8. Tom Paxton - Ramblin' Boy
9. Pete Seeger - Intoxicated Rat
10. Pete Seeger - Weave Room Blues
11. Phil Ochs - Too Many Martyrs
12. Phil Ochs - Talking Birmingham Jam
13. Phil Ochs - Talking Cuban Crisis
14. Pete Seeger - Tom Dooley
15. The Freedom Singers - Fighting For My Rights
16. The Freedom Singers - I Love Your Dog, I Love My Dog
17. The Freedom Singers - Calypso Freedom
18. Mississippi John Hurt - Candy Man Blues
19. Mississippi John Hurt - Stagolee
20. Mississippi John Hurt - Trouble, I've Had It All My Days
21. Mike Settle - Little Boy
22. Mike Settle - Sing Hallelujah
23. Tom Paxton with Pete Seeger - A Little Brand New Baby
24. Tom Paxton with Pete Seeger - Hope You Have a Mighty Nice Life
25. Bob Dylan - Who Killed Davey Moore
26. Bob Dylan - Masters of War
27. Bob Dylan with Pete Seeger - Playboys and Playgirls

Phil Ochs Covers: The Limeliters - Power and the Glory

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Portable Sixties Reader

Edited with an Introduction by Ann Charters

From civil rights to free love, JFK to LSD, Woodstock to the Moonwalk, the Sixties was a time of change, political unrest, and radical experiments in the arts, sexuality, and personal identity. In this anthology of essays, poetry, and fiction by some of America's most gifted writers, renowned Sixties authority Ann Charters sketches the unfolding of this most turbulent decade. Organized by thematically linked chapters chronicling important social, political, and cultural movements, The Portable Sixties Reader features such luminaries as Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Robert Lowell, Eudora Welty, Bob Dylan, Malcolm X, Susan Sontag, Denise Levertov, Norman Mailer, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter Thompson, William S. Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Lenny Bruce, Ishmael Reed, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Rachel Carson, and Gary Snyder. The concluding chapter, "Elegies for the Sixties," offers tributes to ten figures whose lives - and deaths - captured the spirit of the decade.


In the section of 1968 titled "Yeats in the Gas," Sanders described his response to a comment by his friend, the folksinger Phil Ochs, after they had experienced the brutal treatment of the Chicago police during the Democratic Convention.


Phil Ochs later mentioned how
in the horror of the gas and the clubs
he thought of Yeats

"I was in the worst police brutality," he said, "right when they charged up by the Hilton. I was between the charging cops and the crowd and I raced into a doorway in the nick of time. . . . While racing away from the tear gas, I just had a sensation of Yeats. I thought of Yeats (laughs) for some reason."

I wondered about that for years
till it dawned that he might
have been thinking of Yeats' poem
"Easter 1916"

and its repeated line
A terrible beauty is born

That is, those crazy youth and not-so-youth
their hasty signs, their hasty props, their hasty yells
were transformed in the Chicago injustice so that
A terrible beauty was born

"Chicago has no government," said Allen Ginsberg a few weeks later. "It's just anarchy maintained by pistol. Inside the convention hall it was rigged like an old Mussolini strong-arm scene - police and party hacks everywhere illegally, delegates shoved around and kidnapped, telephone lines cut."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Pistol Packin' Mama: Aunt Molly Jackson and the Politics of Folksong

By Shelly Romalis

Folklore legend Aunt Molly Jackson grew up a coal miner's daughter in eastern Kentucky. Witness to the terrible strife between miners and mine owners, Molly became a labor activist, writing songs that fused hard experience with rich Appalachian musical traditions to become weapons of struggle.

In 1931, at age fifty, Molly was "discovered" by the Dreiser Committee and brought north. There she was sponsored and befriended by an illustrious circle of left-wing intellectuals and musicians, including Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Alan Lomax, and Charles Seeger and his son Pete. Together with Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, her sister Sarah Ogan Gunning, and other transplanted folk musicians, Molly served as a cultural broker, linking the rural working poor to big-city left-wing activism.

Shelly Romalis's multidimensional portrait of Aunt Molly illuminates Southern Appalachia during the early decades of the twentieth century, New York during the Depression years, and the folk music revival and women's resistance movements.

"This lively book fills out a lot of history and makes a whole period come alive. It is really a thrilling story [and] has challenged us to think about our own work as collectors, educators, and students of folklore and American life."
-Guy and Candie Carawan, authors of Voices from the Mountains

"[Gives] a fresh twist to our understanding of the interaction of politics and culture from South to North through the twentieth century."
-Ronald D. Cohen, author of Wasn't That a Time! Firsthand Accounts of the Folk Music Revival

Shelly Romalis, an associate professor of anthropology at York University, Ontario, is the editor of Childbirth: Alternatives to Medical Control, as well as a singer and fiddler.


A new kind of singer-songwriter - Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan - became media celebrities. Baez's pure American tones rendered multi-versed English ballads emotionally accessible; Ochs's lyrics engaged politically disfranchised youth (although he never reached the popular audiences of the others); and a generation yearning for anchors in a choppy social sea elevated Dylan to a kind of mystical Poet Laureate.


Revivalist folk singers during these years spanned the interest spectrum from traditional American music (New Lost City Ramblers, Joan Baez), internationalism (Cynthia Gooding and Theodore Bikel) to singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, whose personal/political identity probings characterized the cultural politics of the 1960s.

Phil Ochs Covers: The Shrubs - Another Age

Friday, 9 October 2009

Monday, 5 October 2009

Philosophy at 33 1/3 rpm: Themes of Classic Rock Music

By James F. Harris

True friendship, true community, social and sexual alienation, the death of God, the importance of the present moment, individual autonomy, the corruption of the state, revolution, the end of the present age - such are the intellectual themes of classic rock.

Sixties rock music left behind the harmless bubblegum and surfing ditties of the 1950s to become a vehicle for thoughtful commentary upon the human condition. Theories and motifs from philosophy, theology, and literature were reshaped, refracted, and transfigured in this intelligent new popular art form.

Classic rock, argues James Harris, should be taken as seriously as the loftiest creations of art and literature. In Philosophy at 33 1/3 rpm, he lays the groundwork for an informed appreciation by exhibiting philosophical themes in the finest rock songs.

Professor Harris's examples encompass all the major rock artists of the classic period (1962-1974), including Paul Simon, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, The Moody Blues, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Joni Mitchell.

His analyses draw upon the ideas of Aristotle, Bonhoeffer, Camus, Descartes, Freud, Kant, Laing, Marcuse, Marx, Nietzsche, Nozick, Rousseau, Sartre, Thoreau, and Tillich, as well as the Bible and other scriptures, to situate the preoccupations of the classic rock lyricists in the Western intellectual tradition.

James F. Harris is Chair of the Philosophy Department at the College of William and Mary and an amateur musician whose tastes have for 35 years included rock 'n' roll. He is author of the provocative and widely-acclaimed work of pure philosophy, Against Relativism, and of numerous philosophy articles. Professor Harris's outlook was profoundly shaped by his participation in the upheavals of The Sixties. He is co-author (with Mark Waymack) of Single-Malt Whiskies of Scotland (1992) and The Bourbon Book (forthcoming).


Of all the many classic rock songs which acknowledge the delicate balance between deliverance and destruction, one of my favorites if "Crucifixion" by Phil Ochs from his 1967 album, Pleasures of the Harbor. A compelling version of "Crucifixion" was recorded by little-known duo Jim and Jean on their album entitled Changes. In "Crucifixion" Ochs tells the tale of the morbid delight which we all take in the sagas of our fallen heroes. Which heroes? Well, take your pick - from Jesus to John or Robert Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jim Morrison or Janis Joplin. When iconoclastic rebels become "an assault upon the order" and represent "the changing of the guard", we embrace them and follow them and urge them on in their fight against "the establishment" and "them" and "evil". It's the battle of a hero of truth, justice, and right against overwhelming odds, and we love them for it. But the terrible truth is that "beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate", and "success is an enemy of the losers of the day", and "in the privacy of the churches, who knows what they pray?" Until finally, with "the cross trembling with desire", the rebel and savior is crucified and "the eyes of the rebel have been branded by the blind." We who are left and who, of course, are innocent of the rebel's death, must know every detail. "Do you have a picture of the pain?" we ask. And "as the cycle of sacrifice unwinds", the important thing is that it's "good to be alive when the eulogies are read." And "with the speed of insanity, then he dies."

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll

By Ben Fong-Torres

In 1969, young rock reporter Ben Fong-Torres was hired by Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner to "come in and do what you think needs to be done." Now Fong-Torres revisits his most intriguing pieces and - for the first time - reveals the stories behind the stories, the stars, and life at Rolling Stone.

"As a lifelong fan of Ben's insightful, wry takes on my fellow rock and rollers, I'm honored to be included in this collection. Ben got a lot of us before the rest of the world did. What a great window on those times..."
-Bonnie Raitt

Not Fade Away is a compelling view of the world of rock and pop culture from the late '60s through the '80s, as seen by one of its first and most well-known journalists. Reflecting on these selected stories, and on his life in those days, Fong-Torres takes you backstage with:

* Bob Dylan
* Janis Joplin
* Ray Charles
* The Jefferson Airplane
* Jim Morrison
* The Rolling Stones
* Santana
* The Grateful Dead
* Hunter S. Thompson
* And many more

Evocative photos by Annie Leibovitz and other photographers help capture this unforgettable era.

Ben Fong-Torres first wrote for Rolling Stone in 1968, when the publication was just five months old. He was on staff at the now-legendary magazine for the next 11 years. His books include The Hits Just Keep on Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio, Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons, and his memoirs, The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese-American from Number Two Son to Rock 'n' Roll.


Phil Ochs was in Philadelphia the day Dylan arrived. Ochs had a gig at the Main Point, a small club in suburban Bryn Mawr. Ochs used to hang out with Dylan, wanted to be as big as Dylan, admired Dylan's successful switch to rock, and served as a target for Dylan's celebrated personal attacks on Village friends. The most popular of the incidents had Ochs getting thrown out of Dylan's limousine one day, for not thinking "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" would be a smash.

Phil Ochs Covers: Curt Boettcher - That's the Way It's Gonna Be

Friday, 25 September 2009

Music USA: The Rough Guide

A Coast-to-Coast Tour of American Music: The Artists, the Venues, the Stories, and the Essential Recordings
By Richie Unterberger

The Rough Guide to Music USA is a tour through the best of the country's popular music, giving you the story behind the sounds of more than twenty regions. Features of this unique handbook include:

* Critical overviews of the crucial performers and styles, from Appalachian bluegrass to New Orleans jazz, from New York klezmer to San Francisco psychedelia.
* Concise reviews of the essential recordings in every genre.
* Entertaining features on the key festivals and sights, plus behind-the-scenes accounts from key figures.
* Practical tips on the best music venues, radio stations, record stores, and publications in each locale.
* More than 150 pictures, including some rarely seen photos.


Phil Ochs, the "singing journalist," was for a time the leading protest folk singer after Dylan went into different areas, and wrote compassionate leftist commentaries with a serious attention to detail and a sometimes savage, sardonic wit. By 1967 he was in California doing rock and expanding his topics to the personal, although he didn't leave protest behind for good. Unfortunately he sank into mental illness in the 1970s, exacerbated by writer's block and a damaged voice, and committed suicide in 1976.

Phil Ochs Covers: Jim & Jean - Crucifixion

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century

By Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison

Music and song are central to modern culture, social movements to cultural change. Building on their studies of sixties culture and theory of cognitive praxis, Ron Eyerman and Andrew Jamison examine the mobilization of cultural traditions and the formation of new collective identities through the music of activism. They combine a sophisticated theoretical argument with historical-empirical studies of nineteenth-century populists and twentieth-century labor and ethnic movements, focusing on the interrelations between music and social movements in the United States and the transfer of those experiences to Europe. Specific chapters examine folk and country music, black music, music of the 1960s movements, and music of the Swedish progressive movement. This highly readable book is among the first to link the political sociology of social movements to cultural theory.

"Eyerman and Jamison have produced a pioneering work on the role of music in social change. Insightfully interweaving theory and story, they recount the ways in which songs have sustained the collective identities and helped to mobilize the energies for protest movements. Their emphasis on the cultural significance of social movements refocuses sociologists' interpretations of their sources and meanings."
-Richard Flacks, University of California, Santa Barbara


The careers of Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton followed a different kind of trajectory, as both singers continued to mix their songwriting with political activism even after the excitement of the sixties had passed. And while they still managed to sell some records, they had largely lost their mass audience, which followed Dylan and Creedence Clearwater Revival back to the country, when it wasn't "flipping out" on drugs. Ochs' was an especially tragic story, ending in suicide in 1976 after a number of failed attempts to recreate the unique combination of culture and politics that he had done so much to articulate in the early 1960s. He traveled and performed in Africa, even recording a song in Swahili with a local band in Kenya before he was attacked and robbed in Tanzania; in the words of Robin Denselow, "he was discovering a whole new world of international music, way ahead of the rock field" (1989: 118). A benefit concert for Chile, which he organized after the military coup in 1973, prefigured the rock benefits of the 1980s, but musically it was apparently a fiasco, as a drunken and overweight Ochs tried to bring back the spirit of a different era, even getting his old friend Bob Dylan to put in an appearance (Eliot 1990).

Perhaps more than any other single individual, Phil Ochs epitomized the message of the sixties in both his personal and his musical life. Like Dylan, he started out by trying to reinvent the tradition of the political songwriter, which Joe Hill had played before the First World War and Woody Guthrie had played in the 1930s and 1940s (Ochs wrote songs about both Joe Hill and Woody Guthrie). When Pete Seeger introduced him at the Newport Festival in 1963, he said that Phil Ochs wrote topical songs rather than folk songs; and it became Ochs' particular identity to mix his songwriting with all of the political movements, from civil rights through the student revolts of the mid-1960s ("Oh, I am just a student, sir, and I only want to learn, but it's hard to read through the rising smoke from the books that you like to burn. So I'd like to make a promise, and I'd like to make a vow: that when I've got something to say, sir, I'm gonna say it now") on through to the antiwar movement of the late 1960s. In the early days of the civil rights movement, he sang his "The Ballad of Medger Evers," "Too Many Martyrs," "Here's to the State of Mississippi," and "In the Heat of the Summer," both in the South and at the large demonstrations in the North. But it was the Vietnam war that became his special topic, from the satirical "Draft Dodger Rag" to the later and more significant "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore," "We're the Cops of the World," "Canons of Christianity," "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land," and "The War is Over." In these and several other songs, written during the second half of the 1960s, Ochs provided an understanding of American imperialism that brought the experience of the war home and into at least a certain segment of the popular consciousness. His songs offered another kind of social theory, providing political analysis mixed with his characteristic ironic observations of the inherent absurdity of the war:
Silent soldiers on a silver screen;
Framed in fantasies and drugged in dreams;
Unpaid actors of the mystery.
The mad director knows that freedom will not make you free,
And what's this got to do with me?
I declare the war is over,
It's over, it's over.
(Phil Ochs, "The War Is Over")
As with his more reflective and poetic songs, which questioned the values of American society, and perhaps especially the values of his fellow progressives - "Changes," "Flower Lady," "Outside a Small Circle of Friends," "Jim Dean of Indiana," "Pleasures of the Harbor" -- the political messages that Ochs sought to infuse into popular culture largely failed to reach a mass audience. Ochs was one of the few who criticized the drug culture -- the "smoke dreams of escaping soul . . . [that] dull the pain of living as they slowly die" -- but he himself slowly died in the late 1960s as the political movements grew more radical and extremist, and many of the musicians with whom he had shared so much in the early 1960s put politics behind them. As he reflected on the violence that he had witnessed first-hand at the Democratic Party convention in Chicago in 1968, he recorded a moving, largely forgotten testament in the form of an album, "Rehearsals for Retirement." On the cover was a gravestone, showing that Phil Ochs had died in Chicago, and the record was filled with powerful songs bemoaning the demise of the political folk song era.

At an appearance in Vancouver in late 1968, recently released as a compact disc after being discovered in an archive, he said how hard it was to keep going. The country was captured by the "media syndrome, when they fill everyone's mind by use of fairly mindless, mind-distorting distortions of the facts . . . which led all of us into the Vietnam war." He still sang protest songs, which could be defined as "a song they don't play on the radio." By 1970, however, even Phil Ochs could see that the political and cultural movements had gone separate ways:
Hello, hello, hello,
Is there anybody home?
I only called to say I'm sorry
The drums are in the dawn
And all the voices gone
And it seems that there are no more songs.
(Phil Ochs, "No More Songs")
Joan Baez, who earlier in the decade had had one of her few commercial successes by recording an Ochs songs ("There But For Fortune"), performed at the famous Woodstock Festival in 1969, but by then the political movement had largely parted company with the so-called counterculture that had taken on such prominence. Along with Ochs and Baez, it was Pete Seeger and Tom Paxton - and, with "Alice's Restaurant," his immortal tale of draft-dodging and garbage collection, Woody Guthrie's son Arlo - who tried to keep alive some of the earlier ambitions, but the music industry was moving on: into psychedelic, drug-dominated hard rock music for some, sexually suggestive soul music for others, and soothing country rural music for still others. Rather than inspiring political change, popular music seemed to be trying to provide the satisfaction that Mick Jagger couldn't get in the early, more political days.