Emil D’Onofrio — Listening Room contributor
As the music world recently marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, another pop icon milestone has gone practically unnoticed.
Folk songwriter/singer Phil Ochs would have turned 70 on Dec.19.
As with Lennon, Ochs’ life also ended abruptly and tragically, albeit by his own hand. Ochs left the world a bitter, depressed soul who felt he had nothing left to contribute at the age of 35. That’s unfortunate, considering how much he did contribute to the world of pop music while he lived.
I had heard of Phil Ochs but had not been acquainted with his music until 2005. The library where I worked had an anthology in its collection titled The War is Ove; the Best of Phil Ochs. I checked it out and soon after listening wondered why I had spent so much time listening to Dylan. Within days I was an official Ochs aficionado, exploring his other work and downloading chords to his songs so I could play them on my guitar.
With its recurrent themes of and protest and disillusionment, Ochs’ music was typical for its time. However, the impression one gets from listening to Ochs is that, unlike many artists who cashed in on baby boomer infatuation with counterculture ideology, he really believed in what he sang about. Perhaps this was why he felt he was no longer relevant when the peace-loving utopia of the sixties gave way to the narcissistic culture of the 70s.
I said in the beginning of this blog that Phil Ochs 70th birthday has gone practically unnoticed. His sister has a website, sonnyochs.com, which pays homage to the folksinger whose lack of “commercial” acclaim has prevented him from receiving recognition he so richly deserves.
The greatest tribute I ever heard given a band came from a fan of the 60s avant-garde group Love. She said that Love didn’t have great hits; they had great songs. Ditto for Phil Ochs.
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