Monday, 30 November 2009

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.

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