Saturday, 30 May 2009

Hotel California

by Barney Hoskyns

With her dark skin and doe eyes, Ronstadt was already turning heads and breaking hearts. "Linda was young and she was very cute," says Nurit Wilde. "She was adorable. You could tell right away that she was the Stone Poneys." Flirtatious and precocious, Ronstadt seemed only semi-aware of her sexual power. When Judy Henske took the unhappy Phil Ochs to visit her in Topanga Canyon, he asked her out. "Linda says to me, in front of Phil, 'Phil just asked me out,'" Henske remembers. "She says, 'I told him no. I decided I didn't dig him.' And she started giggling."

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Something Else

Phil's appearance on the television show Something Else (hosted by John Byner) in 1970, a lip syncing performance of "No More Songs." This footage was later used in the A&M promotional film, Love It Or Leave It.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Myself Among Others: A Life in Music

by George Wein with Nate Chinen

Over a dozen other afternoon workshops went on during the course of the 1963 festival, ranging from "Fiddles" and "Old Banjo Styles" to "Collecting Folk Music" and "Folk Music and Copyright Law." Predictably, the most popular of these was a session devoted to "Topical Songs and New Songwriters"--it attracted some 500 people to the Newport Casino lawn on Sunday afternoon.

The Freedom Singers once again portrayed the urgency of the civil rights effort; "Fighting for My Rights" left little room for misinterpretation. Other performers touched upon the same nerve; Phil Ochs delivered his memorable "Ballad of Medgar Evers," and his "Talking Birmingham Jam" evoked the afternoon's only standing ovation. There was an equal rights message in some of the songs of Bob Dylan, as well. Dylan, whose star had risen considerably since his performance two nights earlier, closed the workshop by performing his tune "Playboys and Playgirls" as a duet with Pete Seeger. At Seeger's prompting, the audience joined in.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: The Midnight Special

Phil's appearance on NBC's The Midnight Special was introduced by Curtis Mayfield and featured the songs "Power and the Glory" and "Changes." Ochs was joined on stage by longtime friend Jim Glover.

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Theater Is in the Street: Politics and Public Performance in Sixties America

by Bradford D. Martin

Increasingly, the Freedom Singers came to share venues with performers in the folk revival, not only at the March on Washington but also at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and the 1964 Mississippi Caravan of Music. Performers at the March on Washington included Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Odetta, and Peter, Paul and Mary. At the Newport festival, the Freedom Singers' influence permeated the occasion, as nearly every white folk performer included at least one a cappella selection and a freedom song in his or her repertoire. Seeger viewed the impressive attendance of forty thousand as evidence of a "revived" festival--indeed, though it had begun in 1959, it had not been held the previous two years--crediting the confluence of civil rights and folk music. During the Mississippi Caravan of Music it became clear that the benefits of folk music's alliance with the Freedom Singers worked both ways. Caravan musicians including Seeger, Guy Carawan, Phil Ochs, and Judy Collins encouraged voter registration by staying in Mississippi "for a week or two or sometimes more" and singing at meetings and freedom schools. True to both the oral tradition of folksinging and SNCC's agenda of developing indigenous leadership, the Caravan sessions at the freedom schools sparked young Mississippians to create their own freedom songs.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: Ten for Two

Phil Ochs made an appearance in John Lennon and Yoko Ono's film Ten for Two, which chronicled the rally to free John Sinclair from prison, which occurred at the Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan on December 10, 1971. Phil's "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon" made the final cut.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A Race of Singers: Whitman's Working-Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen

by Bryan K. Garman

As a new generation of what Cunningham called "Woody's children" recognized that their beloved vagabond may have also shared their politics, they quickly identified him as their heroic spiritual grandfather. In a special tribute to Guthrie published in the left-wing Mainstream magazine in 1963, folksinger Phil Ochs chastised those who were unaware of his politics. "I have run across some people who seem to consider [Guthrie] solely as a writer of great camp songs," wrote Ochs. "They cannot fathom the political significance of a great part of his works." Groups such as the Folksmiths defanged Guthrie for their summer camp audiences, but as many of these campers grew up, they anxiously historicized and adapted his work to suit their own purposes. In Guthrie, the New Left found a tradition that legitimated its own cultural work, that gave authority to a burgeoning political movement dismissed by critics for being young, inexperienced, and insubordinate. Ochs explained that Guthrie's "close association with the unions exemplified the traditional connection between folk music and social movements" and that as the civil rights and pacifist movements unfolded, "it was inevitable that folk music would follow its natural tendency of commentary and identify again with the times." Ochs was an important figure in reestablishing this connection. Ochs was an important figure in reestablishing this connection. Whereas Dylan's "Song for Woody" downplayed Guthrie's political legacy, Ochs's maudlin "Bound for Glory" (1963) reminded his audience that Guthrie had steadfastly supported unions and courageously defended his beliefs. Perhaps more important, Ochs urged young Americans to embrace and build on Guthrie's ideological commitment. "Oh why the sing the songs and forget about the aim," asked Ochs. "He wrote them for a reason, why not sing them for the same?"

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Phil Ochs Video Vault: The Sound Is Now

"On September 27, 1968, SA [Special Agent] ascertained from the Information Office of Metromedia Television, WNEW, Channel 5, 205 East 67th Street, NYC, that the subject was to make a 'rare' television appearance on that television channel at 7:30 p.m., September 28, 1968, on a taped special, 'The Sound is Now' show, which show had been taped two weeks prior to showing." -Excerpt from Phil Ochs' FBI file

Friday, 1 May 2009

Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s Chimes of Freedom

by Mike Marqusee

In the course of 1964, as Dylan withdrew from current events, Ochs rushed to embrace them, in song and action. He responded to the Harlem riot--the first of the decade's major inner-city rebellions--with "In the Heat of the Summer," where he mourned the violence but also saw it as an expression of political desperation: "We had to make somebody listen." Ochs traveled south to take part in Mississippi Summer, and unleashed his social patriotic disgust in "Here's To The State of Mississippi" ("Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of / Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of"). In "Links On the Chain" he sang about the historical failure of the labor movement to support the struggle for black freedom. Long before it was fashionable, he sneered at the selective service system in "Draft Dodger Rag," whose jauntily cynical satire anticipates Country Joe's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag."

These songs made Ochs the star of Newport 1964, where he became "the new Dylan"--the first of many cursed with that tag. Broadside declared him "the most important voice in the movement." One Newport reviewer described the contrast between the committed Ochs and the introverted Dylan as "meaning vs. innocuousness, sincerity vs. self-conscious egotism." But Ochs had no interest in this rivalry, and vigorously defended Dylan. "To cater to an audience's taste is not to respect them." Ochs remained a staunch champion of Dylan's genius and his right to pursue his artistic destiny. Dylan was less generous. In private, he needled Ochs, telling him he was "a journalist, not a songwriter," and that his music was "bullshit . . . you're just wasting your time."