Saturday, 28 February 2009

Millennium Folk: American Folk Music Since the Sixties

by Tom Gruning

Folk Music Magazines
Before 1962, Sing Out! magazine (whose predecessor was People's Songs) was the only folk music publication on the market. From about 1962 to 1972, a publication called Broadside was put out by the joint efforts of Seeger. Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, Gordon Friesen, and Gil Turner. This mimeographed publication was designed to put out the songs of the folk music movement (Eliot, 1979), and included the publication of some of Dylan's earliest material (McKeen, 1993). It also included articles about various protest movements, concerts, festivals, record reviews, and more. (Neff, "Media Usage")
Neff's account of the folk music periodicals that marked the genesis of popular folk movements in twentieth-century America suggests that these publications had a limited commercial appeal and consequently a limited economic scope. In a conversation in September 2002 with Sonny Ochs, sister of popular 1960s folksinger Phil Ochs, she commented about the appearance of these publications in contrast to current folk music periodicals. Ochs stated that in the early 1950s when Sing Out! was in its infancy, it was decidedly "unglossy." Likewise Broadside reflected its folkie ideological conceptual backdrop in its simple, underwhelming appearance. As the new face of folk began to emerge in the late 1980s and 1990s, publications that had informed earlier folk music enthusiasts changed in appearance, and new publications surfaced to fulfill the needs of a changing marketplace. As popular culture seemed to broaden the base of a postmodern politics of image, the landscape of folk publishing bowed to the pressure. Glossy, full-color publications replaced the mimeographed statements of the older folk's ideals, and a new contender began to rise in stature.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation

by Marc Fisher

Fass didn't claim to have anything particularly novel to offer when he asked the bosses at WBAI if he could expand his announcing job to include the hours after 1 A.M., when the station normally signed off before coming on again at sunrise. Sure, go ahead, came the response, and so he did. He thought he might play some music--he was a constant presence at the Greenwich Village cofeehouses where Phil Ochs and other emerging folkies were testing their new songs. Maybe he'd throw in some bits of theater, maybe spin some of the odd records he picked up at secondhand shops in the Village.

No one at the station cared much what Fass did on his show--after midnight, who was listening? So if Fass played a record called "How to Teach Your Parakeet to Talk" just because he thought it was funny, no one complained. And if he took a tape recorder out to the coffehouses and played the results ont he radio, calling his show "Coffee Grounds," that was just fine. Fass's was the first radio show to feature a strange, falsetto-voiced singer who called himself Tiny Tim and sang songs that simulatensouly paid tribute to the a cappella groups of the 1930s and spoofed the corporate music machine. On one of those first nights on the air, the stage manager of an off-Broadway show in which Fass was performing urged him to put a friend of his sister's on the radio, a guy named Bob Dylan who was a gifted parodist and, by the way, a singer too. Dylan came on and pretended to be the chief of a company that made clothing for folksingers.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Come, Read To Me A Poem

Phil's April 12, 1967 appearance on WNYE-TV in New York City. One of his few apolitical TV appearances on a show devoted to poetry.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism

by Geoffrey R. Stone

On April 17, an SDS-sponsored event in Washington drew 20,000 demonstrators. Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, and Judy Collins sang; I. F. Stone, Staughton Lynd, and Senator Ernest Gruening addressed the crowd; and marchers presented proposals at the Capitol calling for an end to the war. In May, more than 20,000 people participated in a marathon teach-in at the University of California at Berkeley. The following month, 18,000 people attended an antiwar rally in Madison Square Garden. An interfaith delegation of Christian and Jewish clergy visited Washington to appeal for peace, and other religious leaders called for a new Geneva conference to bring about an end to the conflict.


On October 21, 1967, some 6,000 federal marshals and troops gathered in Washington in anticipation of the event. More than 100,000 antiwar demonstrators convened at the Lincoln Memorial to hear speeches and sing protest songs with Phil Ochs and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Dellinger then took the microphone and declared, "[T]his is the beginning of a new stage in the American peace movement in which the cutting edge becomes active resistance." Whether he knew what was about to happen next has never been clear.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Rock 'n' Roll and the Cleveland Connection

by Deanna R. Adams

One of the original Cleveland coffeehouses was the Left Bank, housed in a basement of an old apartment complex. More cropped up as the fad took hold, offering relaxed meeting places for those too young for the bar scene, places where they could gather and share various talents and interests--all with no cover charge. Other popular coffeehouses were the Well and the Outpost, both in East Cleveland. Faragher's Back Room, on South Taylor road in Cleveland Heights, owned by Bill "Red" Faragher, was more of a club than a coffeehouse, yet its casual atmosphere resembled the latter. It was an early testing ground for budding comedians such as Bill Cosby, the Smothers Brothers, and Ohioan Tim Conway before it majored in the folk scene. That began when a young folk singer named Phil Ochs, then an Ohio State student, started playing and hanging out there during the summer of 1961. Ochs went on to become one of the most notable names in folk music, until his suicide in 1976.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems

by Yusef Komunyakaa

Chair Gallows

Beating wind with a stick.
Riding herd on the human spirit.

It's how a man slips his head into a noose
& watches the easy weight of gods pull down

on his legs. I hope this is just another lie,
just another typo in a newspaper headline.

But I know war criminals
live longer than men lost between railroad tracks

& crossroad blues, with twelve strings
two days out of hock.

I've seen in women's eyes
men who swallow themselves in mirrors.

--memory of Phil Ochs

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters

by Robert Gordon

The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album was on the streets three months after it was recorded, and Muddy hit the road. In New York City, he played a week at the Bottom Line. Bob Dylan, who as emerging from retreat, showed up several nights in a row, bringing a drunken Phil Ochs (a folksinger not long from suicide) and 1920s blues singer Victoria Spivey -- who made everyone address her as Queen Victoria. She wore a flowing white gown decorate with snakes, and Muddy kept asking her to take it off; the snakes gave him the heebie-jeebies.

"Dylan came into our tiny dressing room with a group of musicians who were soon to become his Rolling Thunder Revue," said Margolin. "Muddy could tell he was someone important because of the intense excitement. It was arranged for Bob to sit in." Muddy, more acquainted with the gangster than the pop star, the gun than the poet, got the name mixed up. "Muddy announced to the audience, 'We have a special guest on harmonica, please give a nice round of 'acclause' (that's how Muddy pronounced applause, and no one ever corrected him) for . . . JOHN DYLAN.' A couple of people clapped politely, and most turned to their friends and asked, 'Who?' I leaned over and stage-whispered to Muddy, 'His name is Bob, like my name - Bob Dylan,' and Muddy repeated, 'Bob Dylan,' as though that's what he had said the first time. The audience went apeshit."

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Behind the Songs: Floods of Florence

"And the holy works of love and reverence fell before the floods of Florence"
--Phil Ochs, "Floods of Florence" (1968)

The Great Flood of Florence, 1966: A Photographic Essay

On November 4, 1966, Florence experienced the most devastating flood of its entire history, which crippled the city and destroyed many of the world's art treasures. On that day, Swietlan Nicholas Kraczyna, a twenty-six-year-old American artist living in Florence, went out into the flooded streets and photographed the dramatic unfolding events.

Kraczyna was awarded the Fiorino d'Oro--the highest honor of the City of Florence--for ten of those photographs. This book presents, for the first time, a selection of eighty-four of Kraczyna's flood photographs, taken on that tragic day and in the days that followed, as the city tried to deal with the immense disaster.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake

Foreword, by James Alan McPherson

This determination to improve himself dictated that Breece should be a wanderer and an adventurer. He had attended several small colleges in West Virginia, had traveled around the country. He had lived for a while on an Indian reservation in the West. He had taught himself German. He taught for a while at a military academy in Staunton, Virginia, the same one attended by his hero, Phil Ochs. He had great admiration for this songwriter, and encouraged me to listen closely to the lyrics of what he considered Ochs's best song, "Jim Dean of Indiana." Breece took his own writing just as seriously, placing all his hopes on its success. He seemed to be under self-imposed pressures to "make it" as a writer. He told me once: "All I have to sell is my experience. If things get really bad, they'll put you and me in the same ditch. They'll pay me a little more, but I'll still be in the ditch." He liked to impress people with tall tales he had made up, and he liked to impress them in self-destructive ways. He would get into fights in lower-class bars on the outskirts of Charlottesville, then return to the city to show off his scars. "These are stories," he would say.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Resisting Muse: Popular Music and Social Protest

Edited by Ian Peddie

In contrast to this impression of the marginalization of politics, a recent survey of music censorship (Bastian and Laing, 2003) has shown that, of the music censored worldwide over the last 20 years, 75 per cent of the cases were for political reasons. Two qualifications need to be added. The first is that very few of these instances involved British or US artists; the second qualification is that such censorship may owe much more to the interpretation of the state than the intention of the artists (for example, the recent ban by the Chinese authorities of particular Stones' songs). But even when we include the history of censorship, we are still left to conclude that, at the very least, politically engaged popular music is not the norm. What could be some of the possible explanations of the exceptions to the general rule? One argument used to explain the political content of popular music is that it reflects or responds to reality. This is an argument that is made all the more plausible by the suggestion that, relative to other cultural forms of expression, music is by far the most accessible. Consider the words of Gordon Friesen, one of the founders of Broadside, the publisher of the early protest songs of Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs:
The question was frequently asked as to why so many Broadside writers concerned themselves with topics like wars; why didn't they write more often about love, flowers, winds upon the hills? Well, the magazine did print such songs. But topical-song writers, as distinct from other creators of music (which is often commercialized escapism), have always tended to deal with reality. (Quoted in Cohen, 2000, p. 15)
Friesen's suggestion is a straightforward one: music, especially folk music, chronicles contemporary reality. It is a form of news reporting, and news reporters, musicians are political because of their sensitivity to the times they live through.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Long Ago and Far Away: James Taylor - His Life and Music

by Timothy White

At a 1965 symposium in New York on the American folk revival, Ewan MacColl's Scottish temper got the best of his critical judgement and he attacked Dylan's poetry as "cultivated illiteracy." A nonplussed Phil Ochs politely advised MacColl that there were two authentic revolutions in popular music, and neither of them involved traditional folk music.

One revolution, Ochs assured, was an emphasis on "perceptive" songwriting, some of it with "protest" in its "poetry." The other revolution was the deepening integration of rhythm and blues and country-and-western idioms as spawned by Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly into the rock and roll ferment that had drowned out the quaint properties and studious musical chops of ageing big band adherents.

Folk could revive itself all it liked to genuinely winning effect, but traditional folk was still a scenic blue highway lying off the main drag, where in 1964, The Beatles had six US number one hits, with five more to follow in 1965.

Dylan himself knew all MacColl's moot arguments about poetry, which he never really claimed to dispense, or politics, which he'd always largely left to Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, Tim Hardin, or Ochs.

But Dylan had little patience in discussing this vexatious mid-'60s cultural vectoring with Ochs himself when Ochs told him he initially thought Bob "could become Elvis Presley . . . Essentially he could physically represent rural America, all of America and put out fifteen gold records in a row . . . What happened then was The Beatles got in the way. Dylan wrote the lyrics, and The Beatles captured the mass music."

As Dylan barked back at 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."

In effect, Dylan was warning that Ochs was flattering himself for waiting at the station for a mystery train he couldn't comprehend, one that was bringing a far more personal style of songwriting and self-exposition - one whose exponents would protest the impersonal and counter the absurd by simply telling the bone truth on themselves. And this coming style, by the way, was one which Dylan had not (and would never) master, even though he made fitful attempts in 1969-70 with his sparse-selling Self-Portrait and New Morning albums.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

U.W. co-ed leaves for Hanoi to negotiate a peace treaty

November 27, 1970

Thierrie Cook, 21, a University of Washington student and a member of the Seattle Liberation Front, left early today for Hanoi to "negotiate a peace treaty."

She and 16 other American students assembled in New York to make up a delegation bound for North Vietnam. A similar group of students is headed for Saigon.

"It has been shown that President Nixon has no intention of getting out of Vietnam," Miss Cook said. "If people want peace they have to take it into their own hands."

The group, selected by the National Student Association, plans to stay two weeks in North Vietnam during which the "treaty" will be "negotiated." The students also hope to visit the countryside and meet as many North Vietnamese as possible.

"That is, if it's safe to go because of all the bombing," Miss Cook said.

Two weeks for "negotiations" with students and officials of North Vietnam appear sufficient, she said.

"It is not a preset treaty," she said. "We will actually negotiate."

Miss Cook, a Seattle native, conceded she expects the "negotiators" will be in general agreement in advance.

"But there will be points which we will have to discuss," she said, "such as a withdrawal date, the prisoners of war, some of the democratic processes for Vietnam and how to implement the treaty."

The group bound for Saigon hopes to meet with student and anti-war leaders there to "negotiate" a similar "treaty." But that group may not even make it into South Vietnam because of its anti-war position, Miss Cook said.

The "treaty" will be brought before church and other organizations in the United States to be "voted on and ratified by the people," she said.

"We may also build our own organization to handle it," she added. "We will set a deadline of May 1 for Nixon to have withdrawn -- or substantially so -- American troops from Vietnam. If not, there will be massive nonviolent demonstrations May 1 through 5."

Mme. Nguyen Thi Binh, the "foreign minister" of the Provisional Revolutionary Gvoernment of South Vietnam (Viet-Cong), has made a peace proposal which calls for withdrawal of American troops by June 30.

"That's an area in which we'll have to negotiate a compromise," Miss Cook said. The students will meet Madame Binh in Paris on the return trip.

The students plan to stop in Moscow for a week en route to Vietnam, or may attend the sixth Stockholm Conference on Vietnam, which opens tomorrow.

The "peace treaty" will bring the Indochina war back in focus, Miss Cook said. After the Cambodian intervention last spring, the American public has "lost interest" in the war and become occupied with unemployment and other problems, she said.

Miss Cook said there are no plans to seek permission to visit American P. O. W.s while in North Vietnam.

"The bomber pilots are war criminals and should be tried as such," she said. "They are responsible for the murder of thousands of people."

Monday, 16 February 2009

A Trumpet to Arms: Alternative Media in America

by David Armstrong

The underground press augmented its dispatches on the war in Vietnam with reports on the war at home--the repression of peace demonstrators by authorities, maps and guides for major marches, notices of upcoming meetings and rallies. In 1967, folksinger Phil Ochs wrote an article for the Los Angeles Free Press announcing a "The-War-Is-Over" rally directly across the street from a $500-a-plate dinner for Lyndon Johnson in Century City. Ochs planned to charge a one-cent admission to his rally, at which radicals would celebrate the spirit of resistance and look to the day when the war was really over. When Los Angeles police, swinging nightsticks, broke up the demonstration, the event made national news. The following year, Ochs recorded his song "The War Is Over," which became one of his best-known efforts, pointing up the intimate connections among underground media, radical musicians, and the peace movement as a whole.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Behind the Songs: Half a Century High

"In the tube where I was killed I was fulfilled
The lies of light would bend, I'd stare until the end, and then again"
--Phil Ochs, "Half a Century High" (1968)

Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

When Marshall McLuhan first coined the phrases 'global village' and 'the medium is the message' in 1964, no one could have predicted today's information-dependent planet. No one, that is, except for a handful of science fiction writers and McLuhan himself. Understanding Media was written twenty years before the PC revolution and thirty years before the rise of the Internet. Yet McLuhan's insights into our engagement with a variety of media led to a complete rethinking of our entire society. He believe that the message of electronic media foretold the end of humanity as it was known. In 1964, this looked like the paranoid babblings of a madman. In our twenty-first-century digital world, the madman looks quite sane. Understanding Media: the most important book ever written on communication. Ignore its message at your peril.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

The Thirty Years' Wars: Dispatches and Diversions of a Radical Journalist, 1965-1994

by Andrew Kopkind

As the trial drew to a close, spirits seemed to pick up. The press, which had been treating the case perfunctorily for months, suddenly regained interest. In the long middle of the case, reporters were satisfied simply to fill the requirements of their editors for a daily story. They fixed on a set of conventional categories into which each session's events were placed: the "antics" of the defendants, the weirdness of the judge, the freak-outs of the spectators and the frustration of the defense lawyers. Bobby Seale's moments made the front page, and the silenced songs of Phil Ochs, Country Joe and Judy Collins were good for a few laughs, but most of the time the stories were buried. It was hard for the real importance of the trial to be broadcast.

Towards the end of January the jury realized that the end of the trial was upon them. Full-time spectators and participants say that an entirely different feeling was projected from the jury box (seeing those fourteen stone-cold faces, it is a bit strange to imagine any feeling at all). By then, everyone knew that both defendants and lawyers would be packed away for contempt whatever the actual verdict in the case; the judge had practically said as much himself. Still, no one could have been prepared for the final week.

MONDAY: Judge Hoffman accepts eight-six of eighty-eight instructions suggested by the government for his charge to the jury, and thirty-four of seventy-nine offered by the defense. Chuckles. The judge turns angrily to the defendants' table: "The conduct is continuing right down tot he last observation." He then turns down a defense motion to show films of the 1968 demonstrations--already entered and used in evidence--in its summation. (The films would probably show the unprovoked, brutal police attacks on demonstrators.)

TUESDAY: Assistant US Attorney Richard Schultz, the dogged and somewhat prissy prosecutor on the government's legal team, begins his summation. The August 1968 demonstrations, he says, were to signal "the start of the revolution" and establish "a National Liberation Front--the political arm of the Vietcong--in the United States." The government's police and informers and intelligence agents were "impartial observers"; the defense's big-name witnesses (Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Julian Bond, Judy Collins, Allen Ginsberg, Terry Southern, Norman Mailer, Arlo Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Richard Goodwin, etc.) were "duped." The defendants were like "Lenin and Mao Tse-tung."

Friday, 13 February 2009

A Freewheelin' Time

By Suze Rotolo

When Phil Ochs arrived at Broadside he made a notable difference. He had a fine tenor voice with a Joan Baez-like vibrato. His songs were good and he was already a polished performer. Phil's songs were journalistic, restricted to a specified subject or event. To write topical songs is risky because as time passes the songs lose their relevance: they have a built-in expiration date. But that doesn't lessen the validity of a well-written song; it serves its purpose within its designated shelf life. Phil was good at what he did.

Bobby and Phil had respect for each other as writers; they shared an affinity and a rivalry they both reveled in for a time. But their friendship was complicated. Phil Ochs came to know his limitations as a songwriter in the context of his admiration for what he believed were the unlimited abilities of Bob Dylan. At first they challenged each other, but as time went by, Phil was in awe of each new song Bob wrote. As Bob's fame grew, he in turn would chide Phil for confining himself within a genre. Phil, like Baez, was politically active; he used his talent and popularity to promote his political beliefs. Dylan worked outside the border.

Phil was living with his girlfriend, Alice, in a roomy apartment on Bleecker Street at the corner of Thompson. It was another Village hangout, and the four of us spent a lot of time together. Alice never seemed to mind people showing up whenever and staying until all hours of the night, even into the morning. She was relaxed and easygoing. The location of the apartment, in the midst of all the music clubs, became problematic as Bobby became more well known. He took to leaving via the fire escape in the back of the building to avoid being recognized by the people wandering from club to club along Bleecker Street.

When Phil and Alice got married I was a witness at their wedding. By then Alice was visibly pregnant, and both of them were very nervous and giddy. During the ceremony at City Hall, we tried to stifle our giggles. The justice of the peace had to interrupt the proceedings to chastise us for not taking the situation seriously. No one was more serious about what they were doing than Alice and Phil. But that is precisely why it struck all of us as so funny.

I last saw Phil toward the end of 1966, when I ran into him at the Limelight one night before I left New York for Italy again. He was drinking a lot by then and he was bloated and disheveled, volatile and dark.

Phil began telling me a long, convoluted tale that made no sense. He laughed and cried and his manner frightened me. I tried to act as if nothing was wrong with his behavior or appearance. I gave him my address in Italy and half begged him to get away, take a long break, and come visit me. Phil Ochs had a good career and people who loved him but the demons he struggled with eventually engulfed and overpowered him. He committed suicide in 1976 at the age of thirty-six.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

UO student leader visits North Vietnam, says Reds will never quit

By Douglas Seymour
December 30, 1970

American student leaders actually signed two "peace treaties" in North Vietnam earlier this month according to University of Oregon Student Body President Ron Eachus, one of the U.S. signers.

He said one was signed with the North Vietnamese Student Union and the South Vietnamese Liberation Students Union. The other was signed by the South Vietnamese Student Union.

Eachus said the real significance of the declarations is the position taken by the South Vietnamese Students Union, which is the recognized above-ground union of students in Saigon government-controlled universities.

"In a declaration developed separately from that in the North and without any knowledge of what the declaration in the North said, the union adopted the same basic position regarding U.S. forces and Thieu and Ky," Eachus said.

U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam by June 30, 1971 is the key provision in both "peace treaties," he said.

Eachus was one of the delegation of American anti-war student leaders that met with the Vietnamese students in North Vietnam from Dec. 4 to Dec. 19.

The American students went to North Vietnam to work on the treaties as a result of action taken by the National Student Association at its convention in August.

Eachus said there was no discussion of North Vietnam involvement in the South Vietnam fighting at the meeting. He said the students agreed that the U.S. shouldn't be in Vietnam in the first place and should get out by June 30 next year, the date which was mentioned in the Hatfield - McGovern amendment that the U.S. Senate failed to pass.

In addition to calling for U.S. troop withdrawal, the student agreements say the U.S. must refrain from violating the sovereignty of Vietnam with forces operating from bases outside that country. Eachus said that specifically means there will be no air raids by planes operating from Thailand.

"The second basic point of the declaration is that support for Thieu, Ky and Kiem must be withdrawn by the U.S. This is a natural sequel to the first condition. Thieu and Ky represent a line of repressive governments used by the U.S. to justify its presence there," Eachus said.

A coalition government with members of the Thieu-Ky administration is acceptable to those fighting against them, but neither of the two men can be a part of it, Eachus said.

"In all of our discussions and in the still conspicuous effects of U.S. bombings, it became clear that the Vietnamese are not likely to rescind their demand for total U.S. withdrawal. It is the cause which has driven Communist and non-Communist to fight," Eachus said.

He said the North Vietnamese laughed at the term "Viet Cong" because they claimed it gave the Communist credit for the liberation movement when most of the forces fighting the U.S. in South Vietnam were non-Communist.

"The Vietnamese history is a record of continual struggle against foreign control. The history books emphasize victories over Mongols, Chinese, feudal lords and more recently the French and the United States," he said.

He maintains that ever since the U.S. began giving military aid to the French during their defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the Vietnamese have viewed the United States as the imperialist successor to France.

"That is why both the North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese Liberation Front cannot accept President Nixon's cease-fire proposal. To do so would be a recognition of the right of the United States to be in South Vietnam," Eachus said.

This principle, he said, is the reason the Vietnam forces have been able to continue the war for so long and that it was around this principle that the delegations signed their peace declarations.

The South Vietnamese Students Union, which involves students in Saigon government-controlled universities, began promoting guerrilla-like tactics in Saigon and other cities a week after the agreement was signed with American students as a result of the shooting of a Vietnamese youth by U.S. soldiers in Qua Nang, Eachus said.

He said the action was taken by non-Communist students "and should serve further notice that the opposition to U.S. presence in Vietnam is not solely Communist and not confined to the countryside.

"It is this increasing activity by students and others in the areas controlled by the Saigon government that make it even more unlikely the liberation forces will take a less hard-nosed stand on U.S. presence in Vietnam," Eachus said.

Those fighting against the U.S. believe they have already defeated the United States and will continue to do so, he said.

"Vietnamization and pacification to them are new phases of the war in which the U.S. will also lose because it will be withdrawing only to face new fronts of liberation in the cities and refugee camps," he said.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Do What I Have to Do (1965)

Footage of Phil Ochs on stage in 1965 from an unknown newsreel, with overlaid audio of "Do What I Have to Do" (from the LP Sing for Freedom: Lest We Forget Vol. 3, where it is titled "I'm Gonna Say What I Have to Say").

UO leader back from Hanoi

December 25, 1970

By Mike Stahlberg

Tired after nearly four weeks of travel but yet full of talk about his experiences in Hanoi, University of Oregon Student Body President Ron Eachus returned to his home in Molalla Christmas Eve.

Eachus, 23, traveled to the Communist capitals of Moscow and Hanoi along with 14 other student leaders from throughout the United States.

The U.S. students signed peace treaties with three different student groups from South and North Vietnam.

Eachus talked briefly with a reporter by telephone late Thursday afternoon, shortly after stepping off a plane in Portland.

Thrust of the treaties signed, according to Eachus, is that complete withdrawal of United States military forces from South Vietnam would lead to peace in the area.

Eachus said before he left Eugene shortly after Thanksgiving that "we hope this (the trip) will produce an awareness that there are people in both countries who want peace and that it is governemnts waging war against governments, not people against people."

Text of the documents signed won't be released until sometime in January, when a National Conference of Youth will be organized by the National Student Association, the U of O student leader said.

Eachus' group spent two weeks int he North Vietnamese capital. In addition to their talks with leaders of the National Student Union of North Vietnam, the United States students met with the writers union and government officials, including the premier of North Vietnam.

"The North Vietnamese government has always made the distinction that it is the American govenrment and not the American people that they're fighting," Eachus said. "Our visit was important to them for that distinction and it was important for them to be able to show their people that they weren't alone in opposing this war."

Eachus said there was publicity about the visiting Americans, "but not in the way we would think of propaganda. I don't think we were used or duped."

He said many of the facts the North Vietnamese gave them about bombing and chemical-biological warfare were the same as had appeared in Western publications. And one member of the U.S. delegation had worked three years in South Vietnam, knew the Vietnamese language, and was able to verify many of the things the North Vietnamese said, Eachus said.

"One of my most moving experiences," Eachus said, "was a visit to the war commission of North Vietnam."

He said the commission showed them "victims of napalm, and genetic monsters created by mothers being hit by the chemicals dropped by the U.S."

Eachus said he found the Vietnamese to be "simple, warm people."

"The government and the people are much at peace with each other and unified in their struggle," said Eachus.

"I would have liked to have stayed in Hanoi longer, if it hadn't been for Christmas and things I have to do in Eugene," he said.

He was he was "exhausted" after four straight days of traveling and struck by the "contrast" between the countries he had been visiting and the U.S. at the height of the Christmas season.

Eachus financed the trip himself. No student or university funds were used, he said.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Statement by David Ifshin, President, United States National Student Association

November 24, 1970
Release: 11:45 a.m.

The National Student Association and student body presidents from throughout the United States have been invited by students in Vietnam to meet and discuss the possibilities of a treaty to end the War in Vietnam. As final preparations were being made for our departure, NSA received a telephone call from the South Vietnamese Embassy here in Washington. They informed us that they had received the following cable from Saigon reading:

"David Ifshin is under no circumstances to be given a visa to enter South Vietnam".

This action on the part of the government of President Thieu, Premier Kien, and Vice President Ngoyen Cao Ky is not an isolated event. Viewing it in terms of the full scale repression within South Vietnam, and in light of the recent massive protests by the South Vietnamese people against the regime, this refusal to allow me to meet with the representatives of the South Vietnamese National Union of Students is seen as an attempt by the Saigon dictatorship to deny the Vietnamese people the right to talk peace with the American people.

Why is it that Ky's government is afraid to allow American students to visit Vietnam? Could it be that he fears that students talking with students might be able to work out a settlement based on common values-- a settlement which the Thieu-Ky-Kiem government and the Nixon-Agnew-Mitchell government would find unacceptable. What is it that Huyen-Tam-Man, the democratically elected president of the Vietnam National Union of Students, has to say to me which so frightens the dictators of South Vietnam that they must mobilize their petty diplomatic bureaucracy to keep us apart?

The very day that the Saigon government denied my entry into the southern half of Vietnam, the United States military announced what amounted to the beginning of a new invasion of the North. Yesterday's helicopter raid deep into North Vietnam and the recent renewal of bombings is a clear indication of Nixon's strategy of maintaining in power a government favorable to United States' interest. This strategy is not only immoral and illegal-- it is impossible in the face of the determination of the Vietnamese people to win their right to decide their destiny without the coercion of the wealth and armed force of the government of the United States. This escalation, launched supposedly to liberate American bomber pilots captured over North Vietnam, is a fraud.

We are here today to confront South Vietnam's Vice President Ky. We are here because Ky, as a member of the ruling elite in South Vietnam, has the power to grant our visa applications. If he, a despot and a war monger, can come to the United States to advocate war, then why can't we, as democratically elected representatives of student governments throughout the United States, go to South Vietnam to advocate peace?


Monday, 9 February 2009

Statement by David Ifshin, President of the U.S. National Student Association

Release Time: 11:00, November 27, 1970

The recent bombing and incredible invasion of North Vietnam has made it clear to American students that they must vigorously renew their efforts to end the tragic war in South East Asia. We interpret the escalation of the war as a clear indication that Nixon--after ten years and 45,000 American dead--is still attempting to achieve a total military victory in Vietnam. In August, 1970, the representatives of five-hundred college and university student governments passed a resolution mandating the president of the USNSA to "engage in negotiations for a peace treaty between the students of North and South Vietnam, and the United States." Since that time, the USNSA has received invitations from the National Union of Students of both North and South Vietnam to explore this possibility. In response to these invitations, student leaders from all sections of the nation have assembled this week in Washington to prepare for a trip to Vietnam.

While in Vietnam, the USNSA delegations will engage in discussions and negotiations with the official representatives of the Vietnamese student unions. We are hopeful that we will return with a joint statement that will outline steps for ending the war. This statement will then be presented to a nationwide conference of student leaders, projected for late January at Kent State University. Hopefully, this conference will initiate preparations for major anti-war demonstrations to take place in the spring.

It is important to note that it has been one month since the delegation has applied for visas, and we still have not received them. The charge de affairs of the Vietnamese embassy informed USNSA that there would be no problem in obtaining visas for the American student leaders. On Monday, November 23, I received a telephone call from the Vietnamese embassy information me that a cable had arrived from Saigon stating "under no conditions will you issue a visa to David Ifshin." In light of the free passage of South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky through the United States, we strongly feel that the refusal to allow American students travel through South Vietnam is a bold contradiction of the democratic principles the United States government claims to be fighting for in Vietnam. We find it ironic that the government of our supposed enemy welcomes us to enter their country and meet with their students, while South Vietnam takes an unprecedented stand of refusing to allow the meeting of National Union of Students leaders with their foreign counterparts. We feel that it is incumbent upon the South Vietnamese government and President Nixon to explain why the duly elected representatives of American students cannot enter South Vietnam, especially in light of the recent trip by students supporting the Nixon Administration's viewpoint. We feel this situation is a further demonstration that the illegal and corrupt regime in South Vietnam does not want the American public to know what the true political situation is in South Vietnam. The students in South Vietnam have been joining with students throughout the world in protesting the war. Their actions in producing a redress of grievances with their government has resulted in the imprisonment, torture, and death of our fellow students. We feel a deep kinship and sense of responsibility for the students of Vietnam, and we shall follow the mandate of the USNSA, and even more important, the mandate of our conscience to do all we can to end the war.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

NSA's David Ifshin -- a so-called radical who weighs his words - 4

He organized counter-orientation for freshmen, student government workshops, protests against Food Service and ROTC, student-owned businesses, a town meeting on university governance, hearings on discrimination int he construction trades, a grape boycott.

Ifshin, the politician and agit-propter, remembers those days clearly. "We would sit up all night discussing 'crises,' issues to have in front of the student body. We'd always have one good one out front--(like demanding a second piece of pie from the Food Service) and three or four on the back burners, ready to go."

He recalls this undergraduate manipulation with a smile on his face--and justifies it with an even-tempered ideology.

"Most students," says Ifshin now, "don't realize their relationship to the university. It's simply a question of self-determination. Take Food Service, the two pieces of pie that you couldn't get before. We make it the same with the war: the kids find out they're just too good for this kind of thing."

He activated blacks to press for "cultural enrichment," women for a campus gynecologist, students for a liveable environment. And he made the war a campus issue, gathering support for the October Syracuse Moratorium, the November Mobilization in Washington, a shut-down of the Syracuse draft board and the May student strike, a "spontaneous" reaction to Cambodia--before Kent State.

These were standard student issues. But in reacting to contemporary gripes like Food Service and discrimination, Dave says he tried to define them in a larger sense: through discussion and analysis, students could be made aware of an overall pattern inhibiting student freedom of choice.

"Walking seven or eight hours on cold morning and evening picket lines at school, I was affected more profoundly than at the Chicago convention. In the evenings, everyone would pass by, going home or out to have fun. The few students handing out leaflets were practically ignored." Says Dave Ifshin: "You do a lot of thinking out there."

Dave's father was a first lieutenant in the Army Air Corps in New Guinea during World War II. "We had a feeling of defending our country then," he says, "nobody ever questioned it. I don't want my sons in this war, I'm violently opposed to it. The kids have made us aware of how wrong it is."

Dave's sister Barbara, 24, information director for a Maryland advisory group to regional governments, brother Mark, 19, an electrical engineering major at the University of Maryland, both more conservative in thinking, marched with him in the Mobilization--"he galvanizes everybody around him." Sister Vicki, 12, is "very aware, going in David's path."

In his sophomore year, Dave's parents moved to a red brick rambler with a garden, two-car garage and white picket fence in Potomac, an affluent community of well-spaced houses, manicured lawns and cul-de-sacs. Says David: "It's a place where they can retire and give Vicki better schools and a better neighborhood to grow up in.

"My folks worked extremely hard for 15 years trying to make money to give us a better life. I wouldn't say they got rich off the black community. My father bought the store long before black power became a concept. They are innocent people trapped in an inequitable system. It's the snotty rich kids of banker parents out protesting for equal rights who get me mad."

Dave's campus politics hurt him academically--but not much. He was enrolled in the honors program with a triple major in English, religion, and political science, won the outstanding English major award of $1,000 and still graduated with a 3.6 average. Yet he failed to win election to Phi Beta Kappa (Faculty friends admit to him privately it was because of his activism.)

The student strike effectively closed down Syracuse for all purposes except graduation. Dave attended the ceremonies in corduroy pants and a checkered shirt, which was formal for him.

He is 6 feet, 170 pounds with an athletic build and looks wrong in a suit so he rarely wears one. "They had to get sophomores who weren't graduating to wear caps and gowns and fill up the seats," he says.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Students for a Democratic Society - FBI Summary

A source has advised that the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), as presently regarded, came into being at a founding convention held June, 1962, at Port Huron, Michigan. From an initial posture of "participatory democracy" the line of the national leadership has revealed a growing Marxist-Leninist adherence which currently calls for the building of a revolutionary youth movement. Concurrently, the program of SDS has evolved from civil rights struggles to an anti-Vietnam war stance to an advocacy of a militant anti-imperialist position. China, Vietnam and Cuba are regarded as the leaders of worldwide struggles against United States imperialism whereas the Soviet Union is held to be revisionist and also imperialist.

At the June, 1969, SDS National Convention, Progressive Labor Party (PLP) forces in the organization were expelled. As a result, the National Office (NO) group maintained its National Headquarters at 1608 West Madison Street, Chicago, and the PLP faction set up headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This headquarters subsequently moved to Boston. Each group selected its own national officers, which include three national secretaries and a National Interim Committee of eight. Both the NO forces and the PLP forces claim to be the true SDS. Both groups also print their versions of "New Left Notes" which sets forth the line and the program of the particular fashion. The NO version of "New Left Notes" was recently printed under the title "The Fire Next Time" to achieve a broader mass appeal.

Two major factions have developed internally within the NO group, namely, the Weaterhman or Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) I faction, and the RYM II faction. Weatherman is action-oriented upholding Castro's position that the duty of revolutionaries is to make revolution. Weatherman is regarded by RYM II as an adventuristic, elitist faction which denies the historical role of the working class as the base for revolution. RYM II maintains that revolution, although desired, is not possible under present conditions, hence emphasizes organizing and raising the political consciousness of the working class upon whom they feel successful revolution depends. Although disclaiming control and domination by the Communist Party, USA, leaders in these two factions have in the past proclaimed themselves to be communists and to follow the precepts of a Marxist-Leninist philosophy, along pro-Chinese communist lines.

A [...] source has advised that the PLP faction which is more commonly known as the Worker Student Alliance is dominated and controlled by members of the PLP, who are required to identify themselves with the pro-Chinese Marxist-Leninist philosophy of the PLP. They advocate that an alliance between workers and students is vital to the bringing about of a revolution in the United States.

SDS regions and university and college chapters, although operating under the outlines of the SDS National Constitution, are autonomous in nature and free to carry out independent policy reflective of local conditions. Because of this autonomy internal struggles reflecting the major factional interests of SDS have occurred at the chapter level since the beginning of the 1969-70 school year.

Friday, 6 February 2009

NSA's David Ifshin -- a so-called radical who weighs his words - 3

It is overly obvious that classroom boredom, for a bright student, is what first leads to a kind of good-humored alienation with The System that produces the boredom. The process of sometimes deadly serious politicalization that often ensues is not quite so plain.

With David Ifshin, the latter began with the travels. Later, when he entered Syracuse in 1966, it was a case of falling in with evil companions--a Sigma Nu fraternity house full of equally bright English majors who loved to talk all night ("incredible discussions of Vietnam!") about race and every other undergraduate subject a young man from Wheaton High had ever been concerned about.

When he first arrived at Syracuse, full of middle class ideas like curiosity, he had pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon, where they drank beer instead of talking. He was named pledge class president. One night when the temperature "was around minus 20," Ifshin directed the pledges to remove all the doors of the fraternity house. It did not appreciably raise the quality of the TKE's talk but it made him pretty popular over at the Sigma Nu house. He switched fraternities. And he began to move into campus politics with the activist Sigma Nus.

Dave remembers SU student government as "an important diversion and a Mickey Mouse operation." In early 1967, student government President Peter Jeffer, the son of a Great Neck funeral director, took a symbolic sip of Genesee beer on campus, in direct defiance of a university regulation. Chancellor William Pearson Tolley, who retired in 1969, dutifully placed Jeffer on probation.

The first outcroppings of dissent appeared. Students started a financially independent newspaper, book and snack bar cooperatives aimed at reducing university prices, a free university curriculum, protests for later dorm hours, longer Christmas vacations, protests against defense contracts, the Dow Chemical Co.'s recruiting, an Administration building sit-in to demand an end to ROTC. And an unsuspecting sophomore was shocked to find a mouse in his Food Service jello.

In the summer of 1968, Dave went to the Democratic convention in Chicago. He calls it a turning point, a depressing, alienating experience. "I went there to see a political convention and peacefully demonstrate against the war and ended up being attacked by police clubs. I had seen something up close and it was a police riot," he says.

"I was opposing a war then everybody admits now was wrong. It's a racist, imperialist war. It makes being an American almost a disgrace. The only way to have any self-dignity is to be an anti-war activist."

In retrospect, Dave admits that wasn't the exact language he would have used at the time. He was fresh from the sterility of his freshman year and he went to the Chicago convention expecting action. "Everyone was aware that things were going to happen. I felt a need to be there. I was very confused at that point and relatively upset by the series of events. The Walker Commission defined it for society as a 'police riot.' And I just made the connection."

"I remember visiting a bank . There were red lines on a map extending to 'free world' countries where the bank had investments. 'Free world' meant freedom for the U.S. to invest. I related it to the time I saw Cubans on television tearing down the Esso oil signs. They were rebelling against U.S. capitalism. The big threat in Chile now is that they're going to nationalize the Bank of America. The U.S. resists the right of a country to own its own natural resources."

Returning to Syracuse, Dave grew a beard and turned to reading Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, Hegel, Marx and the early John Dos Passos. He is still an indefatigable reader and his library comprises more than 400 books--"for his birthdays all he wanted was books," says his mother.

The following spring, John Corbally, a 44-year-old vice president for academic affairs at Ohio State University, was elected chancellor of Syracuse and began what was to be the most turbulent year of that university's first century for two primary reasons. David Ifshin's student government presidency and football coach Ben Schwartzwalder's rift with black team members.

Dave revitalized student politics at Syracuse. He swept the campus on an independent slate having the endorsement of neither campus newspapers nor campus political parties. In denim cut-offs and sandals, he stopped at every dorm floor, attacking student apathy.

A week after he was elected, Ifshin staged a boycott which finally won the student dorms autonomy. Said the apostate Sigma Nu: "If we could turn the dorms into communities, there would be no need for fraternities."

Thursday, 5 February 2009

NSA's David Ifshin -- a so-called radical who weighs his words - 2

Dave Ifshin isn't sure where the politics began. He doesn't like to call the process "radicalization," because off the telephone he knows and weighs the personal talk, the heft and girth of every word. And, anyway, he's "much more moderate" these days then he might have been during the Syracuse University years--way back there in 1967 and '68.

Wherever he is, politically, "it wasn't a steady process" but he thinks it began in the ninth grade at Belt Junior High when he took it upon himself to write an editorial for the school paper attacking a "conservative" Montgomery County school board for various budget cuts. The piece won him an award from the Columbia School of Journalism. But it also tagged him, for the school authorities, with a reputation as a very pleasant, much too bright maverick. It would follow him right through Wheaton High and his career at Syracuse University as hyper-activist student body president.

(Recalls Thomas Krafchik, Wheaton accounting teacher and student adviser: "Dave was always a stable individual, intellectually aware, easy to get along with, the type of kid you could joke with."

(Recalls Syracuse U. Chancellor John Corbally Jr.: "I found David to be a student leader who had considerable charisma and who was willing to work hard on projects in which he was interested. While we did not always see eye to eye, we were able to communicate with one another on a number of occasions when it was important to do so.")

Weeelll, now. At home, the family talk was straight American Immigrant Independent, with a sprinkling maybe of Grandfather Ifshin's old Kiev Socialist fiestiness ("actually, the folks are against big corporations and I guess they're Democrats but there isn't much political talk at home") rising from the kind of economic worldliness that comes from running a family liquor store business at 14th and R streets for years and years. These days Shirley and Harold Ifshin are anti-Vietnam War, David says, but otherwise orthodox politically. Again and again David Ifshin will tell you that "my father is the most profound influence in my life. He's spent his life not selling out."

It was in junior high that the boredom set in with David Ifshin. He read too much too fast. "I could get the semester reading requirements out of the way in the first week and then have to sit around listening to the banal classroom talk for the rest of the year. And it didn't get much better at first at the University."

At Wheaton, Dave ran varsity track and cross-country with the state championship team, belonged to Key Club, W Club, the student government executive committee and the National Honor Society, rewrote the school constitution and read Catch-22, The Naked and the Dead and anything else he could get his hands on.

"I remember Dave as an A-B student who was interested in going beyond class discussion," says history teacher Martin Rabunsky. "He was always of a liberal political persuasion, but polite and considerate. I do not remember him as a radical but the students have been involved more actively in the last two years."

Dave now characterizes Wheaton as "a very oppressive environment, intellectually stagnant, a social experience." He would run from 3:30 to 7, go to sleep early. On weekends he hiked, camped and indulged in a little covert drinking with buddies, "my first act of civil disobedience."

Once in awhile Dave played basketball at Freedom House and attended a few SNCC meetings that didn't hold his interest. "I was never a do-gooder," he now says. "Those organizations are a distraction from the cause of the problem . . . ways to assuage a liberal guilt complex. I never found them doing any good although I was committed to change in an abstract sense."

His first "politicalization" came while traveling with the Key Club to a Kiwanis convention in Dallas right after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was in St. Augustine, Fla., when a hotel manager poured acid into a pool full of blacks. In Pensacola, when a hotel clerk refused to remove a segregation sign. In Philadelphia, Miss., during the search for the murdered civil rights workers Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman.

Summers, David sometimes helped out in his father's liquor store.

"My parents worked long hours and never made any money off it," he says. "They had a white business in a black neighborhood. They tried to be fair, they never forced our views. The blacks had a Tom-ish response to me but it was an exposure to the situation."

During the riots after Martin Luther King's assassination, "We were messed up. They stole all the liquor and smashed the registers," says Shirley Ifshin. "Dave was in sympathy with the people and understood why. But he saw innocent people victimized and became strongly opposed to violence."

Tape From California

Tape From California is Phil Ochs' fifth album, released in mid-1968 on A&M Records. A step back from its predecessor Pleasures of the Harbor, a sort of cross between that album and 1966's Phil Ochs In Concert, it features folk with shades of rock, bluegrass and baroque music.

The best-known track is the epic "The War Is Over," a portrait of the ridiculousness of war released at a time when Vietnam seemed as if it would never end. Its upbeat, military-style backing is as ironic as the backing for "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" had been one year prior. The opening track, written as he was moving from New York City to Los Angeles, is the first truly rocking song in Ochs' catalogue, an aural comment on Ochs' own life circa 1968. "The Harder They Fall" is a reworking of nursery rhyme characters into a somewhat menacing and bewildering tale, including lines about Mother Goose stealing lines from Lenny Bruce. "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land," in line with his earlier anti-war songs, is one of the more poetic songs on the album.

"When In Rome," which lasts over thirteen minutes, is Ochs' longest song, a portrait of depression in the style of Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row," set to simple acoustic guitar backing. It could have been about life in ancient Rome, America in the 1960s, or any other point in between.

Track listing

All songs by Phil Ochs.

1. "Tape From California" – 6:45
2. "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land" – 3:35
3. "Half A Century High" – 2:53
4. "Joe Hill" – 7:18
5. "The War Is Over" – 4:25
6. "The Harder They Fall" – 3:52
7. "When In Rome" – 13:13
8. "The Floods of Florence" – 4:52

  • Phil Ochs - guitar, vocals
  • Larry Marks - producer
  • Lincoln Mayorga - piano, keyboards
  • Van Dyke Parks - piano, keyboards ("Tape From California")
  • Ramblin' Jack Elliott - flat-picked guitar ("Joe Hill")
  • Ian Freebairn-Smith - arrangements

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

NSA's David Ifshin -- a so-called radical who weighs his words - 1

By Joan Kramer

David Ifshin was talking. And talking. The words tumbled out, stumbled over each other in the haste to be said. He loves words. His senior thesis was on the "The Restoration of Language" and God knows David Ifshin is doing what he can about bringing it back.

He is on his way to Vietnam. The phone calls are coming in from all over to his office on the second floor of the National Student Association headquarters on S Street. Yes, he's talked to Rennie Davis about that. No, somebody hasn't checked with Dave Dellinger.

Yes, CBS television was interested in the trip. No, NBC wasn't but there was some talk about equipment. Yes, the UAW organizer was getting the materials for the St. Bonaventure campus. No, they hadn't heard from South Vietnam embassy about the visas yet (North Vietnam was easy--it's the South that didn't want the world's student-libs poking around).

Yes the State Department was in touch. No, he hadn't had any sleep for 24 f------ hours. Yes, he'd be at Kent State on Monday and no, he wouldn't read the letter from the student leader in Saigon, the one who'd just gotten out of the "tiger cage," not over this telephone, he wouldn't.

Twenty-two and at one of the nervends of maybe the American political future: president of NSA, successor to Charlie Palmer. Ifshin sits in the president's office easily, looking like something out of Bukharin, lacing the telephoned "oh wows" with an "oppressed" here, an "institutional racist" there. And underneath the beard, the topical bombast the hard-to-take facts, a very good politician who is fond and proud of his family and isn't totally depressed over the Future of America--just a nice Jewish boy from Wheaton High having the time of his life, with Cambridge or maybe Oxford in next year's plans.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

American Cinema of the 1960s: Themes and Variations

edited by Barry Keith Grant

While the war in Vietnam was escalating to the point that there were almost 185,000 troops in the country by year's end, one would be hard pressed to find any evidence of that in mainstream films. By the same token, another war--President Lyndon Johnson's much ballyhooed War on Poverty--also seems to have left little trace on celluloid images of the year. One learned from protest singer-songwriter Phil Ochs that 23,000 U.S. troops landed on the shores of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, but the movies were silent on this score, too. Bubbling beneath the surface, however, even within the mainstream, one could easily detect the restlessness and disillusionment that would threaten to break apart the fabric of American society later in the decade and that certainly ended the ride of Hollywood's family-style, Production Code-restricted cinema.

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: ABC Scope 1965

An ABC camera crew caught Phil's return to his alma mater, Ohio State University, on May 7, 1965. The FBI was also interested in the performance, and thanks to them, we know the date of the show. This excerpt comes from the BBC documentary series People's Century. This may be the earliest film footage of Phil that still exists.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Final Speech of Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán



Workers, peasants, patriots! Guatemala is going through a hard trial. A cruel war against Guatemala has been unleashed. The United Fruit Company and US monopolies, together with US ruling circles are responsible for ellipsis. Mercenaries have unleashed fire and death, respecting nothing. We all know how cities have been bombed and strafed, women and children have suffered. We know how representatives of workers and peasants have been murdered in occupied cities, especially in Bananera. That was an act of vengeance by the United Fruit Company. We are indignant over the cowardly attack by mercenary US fliers. They know Guatemala has no adequate air force so they try to sow panic. They bomb and strafe our forces preventing operations. Today they sank a ship taking on cotton in San Jose. In the name of what do they do these things? We all know what. They have taken the pretext of Communism. The truth is elsewhere -- in financial interests of the United Fruit Company and other US firms that have invested much in Guatemala. Time will show if what they say is true, but there are those who claim that Guatemala is the cause of what happens. My Government has been called Communist in nature. We have used every means to convince world reactionaries that what US Government circles say is untrue. After thinking it over I have taken a great decision of great importance for our country. I have decided to quit power, turn the executive over to Carlos Enrique Diaz, Chief of the Armed Forces. All social conquest will be kept. I believe that democratic political organizations and all other popular organizations should give him full support. I ask this as my last act as governing man. I have had to fight in very difficult conditions. The sovereignty of a nation is not maintained without material elements for defense. I am thinking only of the people. I think it is my duty to contribute to save what we have gained. The military situation is not difficult, not at all. The enemy commanding barbarous mercenaries is incompetent, cowardly. We have seen this in the few battles fought. The enemy took Chiquimula only by air power. I took presidency with great faith in the democratic system, in freedom, in the idea that economic independence could be won. I still believe the program is fair. My faith in democratic freedom, in the independence of Guatemala has not been lost. Some day the enemy forces will be defeated. I am still a combatant of freedom and progress for my country. I say goodbye with sorrow, but firm in my convictions. These years of sacrifice and fight and the arguments of the enemy have not defeated me. Rather the material elements he has for destruction. Unless we do away with our powerful enemies' pretext Guatemala might be destroyed. I thank deeply for their collaboration the many good servitors of the nation -- the officials, public employees and especially the Civil Guard and Army. I thank you from my heart for the support of PAR, PRG, PRN, PGT, popular organizations like CGTG and CNCG. They have defended the wishes of the people. In my heart I do think I am making a mistake. Only the future can say. Let peace be restored. Let the gains be kept. With the satisfaction of having done my duty I say long live the October Revolution! Long Live Guatemala!


Arbenz declared "Deep within my conscience I do not think I am making a mistake. The day will come when there will be triumph for loyal Guatemalans under Colonel Dias."

After this resignation announcement, it was announced that the Guatemalan Constitution had been suspended.

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Gerde's Folk City (1975)

The last known footage taken of Phil Ochs stems from the Bob Dylan film Renaldo & Clara (1978). The footage was shot on October 23, 1975 at a surprise birthday party for Mike Porco at Folk City. Phil asks for (and receives) Bob Dylan's hat from Bob Neuwirth ("not the guitar, the hat"). Unfortunately, just as Phil begins playing, the footage cuts away. According to Larry Sloman, Ochs played the following songs as part of his set (all cover songs):

1. Jimmy Brown
2. Too Many Parties
3. Two Brothers
4. Lay Down Your Weary Tune

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Yippie (1968)

The Youth International Party's biting critique of the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Yippie members included Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Nancy Kurshan, Paul Krassner, Stew Albert, Dick Gregory, Ed Sanders, Phil Ochs, Jonah Raskin, Dana Beal and David Peel. Film includes alternate versions of "I Ain't Marching Anymore" and "William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed" by Phil Ochs.

"[...] furnished tape recordings of the remarks of Abbott Howard Hoffman (100-449923) during his public talk given at the University on 4/30/69. Excerpts taken from the tape concerned a catalog of films made to send to schools and to be shown on the streets and in communities. The film that won the academy award for the most political relevance by Students for a Democratic Society was made by Hoffman, Ed Sanders, Phil Ochs and G.W. Griffith. Ochs and some other Yippies made up a song for the film." --Excerpt from Phil Ochs' FBI File

In Defense of Bob Dylan (1965)


Just between you and me, I would like to ask you to sheath your critical swords so I can get a word in edgewise. I couldn't help but notice the frontal attack on brother Bob Dylan lately, who is being criticized a lot more than most of us thought possible.

It is as if the entire folk community was a huge biology class and Bob was a rare, prize frog. Professor Silber and student Wolfe appear to be quite annoyed that the frog keeps hopping in all different directions while they're trying to dissect him.

It seems the outrage occurred at Newport, and there are many different confusing versions of what went on. Was Dylan raped by success? Did Dylan rape his fans? Did Dylan's fans rape Elizabeth Cotton? Nobody seems to know for sure.

And so Irwin Silber wrote an open letter to Bob telling him he couldn't really write about the world honestly without writing protest songs and accused him of relating only to himself and his cronies.

I agree, and I would like to add my name to the list of accusers. I hereby publicly smack Bob's hand and demand that he be made to stand in a dark corner, preferably at Newport, and be forced to write "Forgive me, Joe Hill" at least a thousand times.

Who does Dylan think he is, anyway? When I grow used to an artist's style I damn well expect him not to disappoint me by switching it radically. My time is too precious to waste trying to change a pattern of my thought.

If you're reading this, Bob, you might as well consider this an open letter to you too. Where do you get off writing about your own experiences? Don't you realize there's a real world out there, a world of bombs, and elections, folk music critics and unemployed folksingers? Instead of writing about your changes like "My Back Pages", for example, you could write a song about Joanie called "My Back Taxes." Oh well, you'll get yours. See if they try to give you any more medals.

In order to prevent this from happening to another angry young man of song, I hereby suggest the formation of an annual prize for the most militant protester in the form of a Silber bullet, on which is inscribed "Go get 'em, kid!"

In the last issue of Broadside Paul Wolfe handed me the topical crown saying I had won it from Bob at Newport and states the future of topical music rested on me. Then he went on to attack the former champion for the low level of his new writing and his lack of consideration for the audience at Newport.

Well, I'm flattered by the compliments but I'd like to point out several misconceptions in the article. In the first place it's not really important who is the better writer and it's pointless to spend your time arguing the issue. The important thing is that there are a lot of people writing a lot of fine songs about many subjects and what concerns me is getting out the best number of good songs from the most people.

In point of fact, when Bob came to Newport he had completely changed the basic subject matter of his songs, and his only real choice as an artist was to be honest to himself and the work he was doing at the time, not how his fans would react to the change. To cater to an audience's taste is not to respect them, and if the audience doesn't understand that they don't deserve respect.

It didn't take any more nerve for me to go on the Newport stage and sing strong protest material since protest songs are so accepted. In reality I didn't show any more respect for the audience than Bob did, because we were really doing exactly the same thing, that is writing naturally about what was on our minds.

With so many good writers around, the future of topical music clearly rests in many hands. And if you want to give credit where credit is due, I pay the greatest homage to Guy Carawan, who not only writes songs, but devotes his full time to the civil rights movement in the South, actively working in a real struggle, promoting workshops on how to use music in the movement, and getting his banjo broken over hi head on a picket line.

As for Bob's writing, I believe it is as brilliant as ever and is clearly improving all the time. On his last record, "Ballad in Plain D" and "It Ain't Me Babe" are masterpieces of personal statement that have as great a significance as any of his protest material. How can anyone be so pretentious as to set guidelines for an artist to follow?

As a matter of fact, in order to save you folks out there from needless aggravation, you may now consider me sold out, completely depraved, and happily not giving a damn about where your tastes happen to be at the moment. I am not writing out of nobility; I am only writing out of an urge to write, period.

My major concern is how honest and well-written I can make a song, not how well it can be used by the movement or how well it fits into the accepted pattern.

These rigorous requirements for songwriters could really get out of hand. Before long you may hear some enraged voice screaming backstage at a Broadside Hootenanny, "You're sorry?....You're sorry?....You wrote a non-topical song and you're sorry?"

It seems you just can't win; no matter what you do these days you're criticized. I really don't see what's so wrong with Bob and I putting all our royalty money into chemical warfare stock.

And so the question still remains. Can I withstand the pressures of fame? Will I be chewed up by the American success machine? Perhaps I might mold topical music into a significant voice in a new and revolutionary America. Or on the other hand you might pick up the Times one day and read the startling headlines: OCHS TURNS TABLES ON TOPICAL TRAITORS.... UNDERGROUND FBI INFORMER ASTOUNDS FOLK WORLD BY ARRESTING DYLAN AND PAXTON AT HOOT.... CITES TAPE RECORDINGS OF SECRET CONVERSATIONS AS DAMAGING EVIDENCE.

As for you, Mr. Levine, some of your movies are really quite bad.

Phil Ochs

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader

Edited by Benjamin Hedin

Despite everything that has been written about Dylan, not a great deal is known about him for certain. Heylin's chronology of Dylan's life, for example, is an archly self-canceling document, in that every piece of information points to a larger lack of information. Here are three consecutive entries for the year 1974:

Late April. Dylan attends a concert by Buffy St. Marie at the Bottom Line in New York. He is so impressed he returns the following two nights, and tells her he'd like to record her composition, "Until It's Time for You to Go."

May 6. Dylan runs into Phil Ochs in front of the Chelsea Hotel and they decide to go for a drink together.

May 7. Dylan visits Ochs at his apartment and agrees to perform at the "Friends of Chile" benefit.

What happened during the rest of the first week of May? Where was he going when he ran into Phil Ochs? Dylan's life story sometimes feels as if it has been pieced together from centuries-old manuscripts that were charred in a monastery fire. "Between January and June 1972 there is no evidence that he was in New York at all," Heylin writes in his attempt at a full-scale biography, Dylan: Behind the Shades. Heylin, a skeptical Englishman who is known for a history of American punk, is at least willing to admit what he doesn't know, and his book is the most readable and reliable of four biographies.