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Ochs, Phil

Prolific topical songwriter on the Village scene in 1963/4, he was viewed as a natural heir when Dylan abandoned the genre, but never achieved any substantial commercial success. He had a falling-out with Dylan in November 1965 but later managed to cajole him into appearing at the Friends of Chile benefit in May 1974. He committed suicide in April 1976.

Clinton Heylin:"Bob Dylan: Behind The Shades, a Biography"


The influence of Bob Dylan, moreover, prompted Ochs to pen several "abstract" political songs like "There But For Fortune" (a hit single for Joan Baez). Ochs' "Pleasures of the Harbor" was an all-too-grand attemot to create his own "Blonde on Blonde" and become a major songwriter/poet. If Dylan could create a successful song cycle by drawing on the poetics of Verlaine and Rimbaud, then Ochs could pursue Keats and Byron. On "Tape from California" Och's explosive answer to Dylan's "Desolation Row"- "When in Rome".

Date: Sat, 8 Apr 1995 16:54:36 -0700
From: Harvey Bernstein (tgb@CRL.COM)
Subject: Re: Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs

How nice to see Phil remembered on this list. Im a little older than you (43), and met Phil twice. The first time was because my girlfriend at the time lived next door to Phil's sister Sonny (it was at Sonny's that he hung himself). Anyway, we went out on my 18th birthday to get me really drunk for the first time, and Phil came along to help. By the way, he succeded.

i ran into him at McSorley's in the Village several years later. He was in pretty rocky shape, and didn't really remember me, but by then he didn't recognize many people.

Anyway, Phil DID idolize Dylan, but Dylan apparently had little but contempt for him. A famous mid-sixties incident had Dylan throwing Phil out of a cab ont the way someplace or another saying "You're not a songwriter - you're a reporter", or some thing like that. .

They eventually patched things up (sort of), to the point that Bob bailed Phil out of a serious jam by appearing at Phil's Allende Memorial Concert at Carnegie Hall at the last minute. Still, Phil's heart was broken when he wasn't invited on the Rolling Thunder tour (as he was led to believe he would be). Some people think this was one of the last straws that led to the suicide. .

Shortly after his death, Sonny & Michael Ochs put together a "Tribute to Phil" concert (also at Carnegie, I think). Dylan was invited, but never responded. Guilt, perhaps? .


P.S. For more on the Dylan-Ochs connection, listen to "Gunfight at Carnegie Hall" and think Newport '65.

Subject: Re: Phil Ochs
From: (Dennis J Green)
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 09:32:37 -0400

Brandon Zwagerman wrote:
> What does everyone think of Phil Ochs? There seems to be so little info on
> him on the internet, as I found searching around this evening. He is really
> a forgotten great-- any fame he had is almost erased...
> doesn't even have a profile on him, among the massive collection of artists
> they have... any thoughts or opinions on the man?
> Brandon Zwagerman

Ochs took over as "The" Topical songwriter/folksinger when Dylan relinquished
the role with the release of Another side of BD.

Ochs Elektra discography:

All the news that fit to sing (1964)
i ain't marching anymore (1965)
in concert (1966) (containe new songs not repeats)
Note: Elektra records like Vanguard was a folkie label,
its first rock act was The Doors

These three albums contained some of the best topical songs to come out of the
Village folkscene but as Dylan showed with BIABH (1965), H61R (1965) and BOB
(1966) you don't have to be a topical songwriter to express the ills, foibles
and weaknesses of Amerikkkan culture. Topical songwriting overnight became passe
and Ochs was an anachronism.

What's of concern to thr rmd crowd is that Dylan had a falling out with Ochs
(they seemed to be good friends) when Ochs told Bob one of his songs (can you
please crawl out your window) was not as good as Positively 4th St.

My feeling is that Dylan wanted to dump this musical dinosaur (Dylan was
metamorphing into a rock star and topical folksingers just don't fit) for a
while and used his comment as an excuse to cut Ochs from the Dylan entourage.

CDNOW on Phil Ochs.

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-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Path:!!!!news3.bellglobal .com.MISMATCH!!!!!|!newsfeed2.earthlin!!!newsread1.!not-for-mail Subject: Re: Phil Ochs From: Peter Stone Brown Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 18:11:35 GMT Organization: EarthLink Inc. -- X-Newsreader: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.2919.6600 "Brandon Zwagerman" wrote in message news:8e0lcc$sfi$ > What does everyone think of Phil Ochs? There seems to be so little info on > him on the internet, as I found searching around this evening. He is really > a forgotten great-- any fame he had is almost erased... > doesn't even have a profile on him, among the massive collection of artists > they have... any thoughts or opinions on the man? > Brandon, Go here (Phil Ochs home page which has all kinds of links and a mailing list): I saw Phil Ochs perform many many times at concerts, Broadside Magazine hoots and protest marches and rallies. He was a great performer. As a songwriter and musician, it's another matter because I don't think many of his songs have stood the test of time. They were perhaps too specific. Dylan had a way of writing about a subject that went deeper than "this is wrong." Compare Ochs' "Too Many Martyrs" with Dylan's song on the same subject (the murder of Medgar Evers) "Only A Pawn In Their Game." Ochs goes into who Evers was, telling his story and lamenting his loss; Dylan investigates the core of racism and hatred. What Dylan truly learned from Guthrie who influenced that whole crew of NYC-based topical writers was how to write in a timeless manner, which is why Dylan's best topical songs still hold up as do Guthrie's. Guthrie's "1913 Massacre" is a good example of a song that holds up no matter when it is being sung. But Ochs' songs (along with those of Tom Paxton and others) sure were great rallying cries at the time. Ochs was a huge Dylan fan and also was one of his staunchest defenders when he moved into rock. He also realized where Dylan was going both with his writing and his performing. His comment after seeing Dylan's '66 Westchester, NY performance, "Dylan is like LSD on stage" was right on the mark. But Ochs' fascination with Dylan and especially his need to compete with Dylan ended up ultimately getting in the way of his own music. When Dylan moved into rock, Ochs eventually followed, but instead decided to combine his songs with "classical music." The result was his first album on A&M, (his fourth album chronologically) "Pleasure of the Harbor." By the time this album finally appeared, Ochs had been singing many of these songs for a couple of years. The finished product, though interesting, was overblown and excessive. I have no idea whether Ochs originally wrote these songs with classical arrangements in mind, but having heard him sing these songs several times before the album's release alone with an acoustic guitar, the album was a dissapointment. The unfortunate production on this album was compounded by the fact that these were some of Ochs' best songs--songs that saw him moving away from explictitly topical subjects. Ochs' remaining three studio albums followed this pattern with varying results. Some songs worked, others didn't. But still on each of those albums are songs that are incredibly moving such as "No More Songs," (a song that turned out to be horrifyingly accurate) on his last studio album "Greatest Hits." In 1973 Ochs was mugged in Africa and his vocal cords damaged to the point that he had to tune his guitar lower in order to be able to perform. He was never the same. The only new song he came up with was a rewrite of his "Here's to the State of Missippippi" to "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon" during Watergate. There was a button that surfaced sometime after Och's suicide that read, "Where is Phil Ochs now that we need him?" Over the past 24 years, I've often wondered that myself and whether his inspiration would've returned. Ochs had his own unique brand of insight. He was funny and most of all he was very real. -- "Where the angels' voices whisper to the souls of previous times." --Bob Dylan Peter Stone Brown e-mail: