Two years of running this blog and I haven’t written about Phil Ochs yet. Considering that he is one of the most influential musicians in my life, that could seem a bit strange, but to be honest, there is a good reason for it.
I feel small next to this guy. Words were always my strength, the one thing I could always swing to my advantage. Songs and music were something I was good at, I mean, I can sit down with my acoustic guitar and a blank piece of paper and write a song in half an hour. Music always came to me, just like my writing does, and I hardly ever feel like I am falling short.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that not all of my songs are strokes of brilliance, I know that not everything I write has interest to others than me, but I am usually happy about what I write, about the dark, kind of hoarse sound of my voice… except whenever I put on one of my Phil Ochs CD’s.
Next to this guy, everything falls short. His clear voice, so pure, so haunting… His remarkable ability to play an acoustic guitar and make it sound full and whole, not just like a back up instrument for his voice… and his words. As a political singer, this guy is unrivaled. He dared, and he did it without being cheesy or being vague. He said exactly what he felt needed to be said and he did it beautifully.
One must wonder why a guy like this, releasing his first records at the same time as Bob Dylan, never won the recognition he so deserved. No offence, I have a huge amount of respect for Bob Dylan, but comparing these two, Phil Ochs is a real talent, where as Dylan must have had a much better promotion team to back him… or maybe he was better at having his lyrics “blowing in the wind” never saying things as directly as Phil Ochs did.
Here goes, Draft Dodger Rag, one of my all time favorites:
Listen to the words. It’s hilarious…
Here is to the State of Mississippi, be warned it’s long, but clearly he had a lot of things that needed to be said about the way the “colored” were being treated;
It’s a classic…
His most famous perhaps, I ain’t marching anymore:
Again, the lyrics are brilliant…
The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns;
So haunting, so beautiful, so… I mean, listen to that voice…
And just to prove him as a brilliant story teller as well, When In Rome, part one;
And part two;
Phil Ochs died in 1976, he killed himself. He was 35 years old. I still can’t believe how a man with this kind of talent could ever be so sad that he wanted out that much. I guess he was just too sensitive for this world, like most true artists.
I’ll stop now, because for once I really don’t have anything to say. This guy says it all himself. The greatest honor I could give someone I look up to as much as I do this man, is to just shut up once and let him sing.
When I’m Gone;