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The War Is Over (Phil Ochs song)

“The War Is Over” is an anti-war song by Phil Ochs, an American protest singer in the 1960s and early 1970s, who is known for being a harsh critic of the war in Vietnam and the American military-industrial establishment. The song, which was originally released on Tape from California (1968), has been described as “one of the most potent antiwar songs of the 1960s”.[1]

One of Ochs’ biographers wrote that “The War Is Over” is his “greatest act of bravery as a topical songwriter”.[2]

There but for Fortune (song)

“There but for Fortune” is a song by American folk musician Phil Ochs. Ochs wrote the song in 1963 and recorded it twice, for New Folks Volume 2 (Vanguard, 1964) and Phil Ochs in Concert (Elektra, 1966). Joan Baez also recorded “There but for Fortune” in 1964, and her version of the song became a chart hit.

“There but for Fortune” consists of four verses, each one of which ends with the line “there but for fortune may go you or I”. The first verse is about a prisoner.[1] The second verse describes a hobo.[2] The third verse is about a drunk who stumbles out of a bar. The final verse describes a country that has been bombed.[3]

One of Ochs’ biographers wrote that, “of all the songs that Phil would ever write, none would show his humanity as brilliantly as the four brief verses of ‘There but for Fortune'”.[1]

The song’s title was used as the name of the 1989 compilation album There but for Fortune, which featured material taken from three albums Ochs recorded for Elektra Records between 1964 and 1966.[4] Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune was also used as the title of Michael Schumacher’s 1996 biography, as well as Kenneth Bowser’s 2011 documentary on the singer’s life.[1][5]

Power and the Glory

“Power and the Glory” (sometimes titled “The Power and the Glory”) is an American patriotic song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s known for being a harsh critic of the American military and industrial establishment. Originally released on his 1964 debut album, All the News That’s Fit to Sing, “Power and the Glory” is said to have contributed to Ochs’ profound impact.

Singer/songwriter Phil Ochs is said to have “spent half his adult life dodging FBI microphones hidden in his soup.”[1] By 1963, Ochs was not well thought of by the U.S. Government and was deemed one of the harshest critics of the American military and industrial establishment.[1] In that same year, Ochs began writing “Power and the Glory,” a song that promotes a way of life that America symbolized to the world.[1] While composing the song, Ochs told his sister Sonny that he was writing “the greatest song I’ll ever write”.[2]

The song has been described as an “anthem … with lyrics that might have been written by the great Woody Guthrie”.[3] Said to be the American patriotic hymn best at combining the American dream with selfless Christian ideals[1]”Power and the Glory” consists of three verses, each followed by a chorus.[2] The first verse invites the listener to walk with the singer, and it describes some of the natural wonders of the United States.[4] The second verse names some of the states through which the listener and the singer would travel.[5] The third verse notes that the United States is “only as rich as the poorest of the poor” but also as “strong as our love for this land”.[4] The chorus of “Power and the Glory” describes the United States as “a land full of power and glory”:

Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

“Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” is a song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s. “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, which was originally released on Ochs’ 1967 album Pleasures of the Harbor, became one of Ochs’ most popular songs.[1]

Ochs was inspired to write “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” by the case of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death on March 13, 1964, outside her home in Queens, New York, while dozens of her neighbors reportedly ignored her cries for help.[2] The song’s refrain, and its title, came from a conversation Ochs had with an acquaintance:

[It] came out of a chance remark, late at night at a coffeehouse. I was talking to a Canadian guy, and he said, “Oh, I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends.” I said, “What’d you say?” and I picked up a guitar and ZOOM, the chords came right away.[1]

The lyrics of “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” condemn social apathy by relating different situations that should demand action on the part of the narrator, but in each case the narrator evades responsibility by giving a mundane excuse, and invariably concludes that “I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends”.[1] The five scenarios include a woman who’s being stabbed outside the window, an automobile accident that has left a car hanging on a cliff, the terrible living conditions in the city’s ghetto, a magazine publisher who’s been fined for publishing pornography, and a friend who’s been arrested for smoking marijuana and sentenced to thirty years in prison.[3]

The song’s arrangement provides a sharp contrast to its lyrics. For ironic effect Ochs wanted an upbeat arrangement.[4] Producer Larry Marks and pianist Lincoln Mayorga produced an arrangement that is almost as memorable as the lyrics of the song. A decade after the song was recorded, Marks said:

The arrangement added to the irony of the whole song. Tacky piano played by Lincoln and a banjo and small rhythm section, nothing more. It’s almost like a saloon song you shouldn’t pay any attention to, and the lyric means practically everything in the world.[5]

In 2001, an author remarked that the recording “pitted a disturbing lyric about murder and social irresponsibility against a backing of insanely cheerful banjo and a honky-tonk piano”.[6]

One Way Ticket Home

“One Way Ticket Home” is a 1970 song by Phil Ochs, an American singer-songwriter best known for the protest songs he wrote in the 1960s.

“One Way Ticket Home” is the first song on Greatest Hits, which—despite its title—was a collection of new songs.[1] Musically, it signals a return by Ochs to his musical roots in country music and early rock and roll.[2]

In the song, Ochs announces that he wants to buy a “one-way ticket home”. Inspired by a recent Elvis concert in Las Vegas, Ochs declares “Elvis Presley is the king/I was at his crowning.” But something is wrong: “My life just flashed before my eyes/I must be drowning.” Referring to the political climate in the United States, Ochs says he “would be in exile now/But everywhere’s the same” and decides he wants a “one-way ticket home”.[3][4]

Love Me, I’m a Liberal

“Love Me, I’m a Liberal” is a satirical song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer. Originally released on his 1966 live album, Phil Ochs in Concert, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” was soon one of Ochs’s most popular concert staples.[1] The song mocks the differences between what some liberals say and what they do.[2]

Introducing the song on the live album, Ochs said:

In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic.[3]

“Love Me, I’m a Liberal” is sung from the perspective of a liberal. In the first verse, the singer laments the assassinations of Medgar Evers and President John F. Kennedy, but says Malcolm X got what he deserved. Each verse ends with the refrain, “So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.”[4] In the song’s other verses, the singer says he supports the Civil Rights Movement and “love[s] Puerto Ricans and Negros as long as they don’t move next door”,[5] but adds that if somebody suggests busing the singer’s children to integrate their schools, he “hope[s] the cops take down [their] name”.[6] In the final verse, the singer reveals that he used to be like the listener:[6]

Sure, once I was young and impulsive; I wore every conceivable pin,

Even went to Socialist meetings, learned all the old Union hymns.

Ah, but I’ve grown older and wiser, and that’s why I’m turning you in.

So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.[4]

According to Ochs’ biographer Michael Schumacher, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” would evoke “a strange mixture of laughter, from nervous tittering from those who recognized themselves in Phil’s indictment, to open roars of approval from the radical factions in the audience.”[7] Eric Alterman describes “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” as “a scorching indictment of liberal cowardice by a bitter adversary, not the good-natured ribbing one might expect from an affectionate ally”.[8]

Kansas City Bomber (song)

“Kansas City Bomber” is a song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. singer-songwriter best known for the protest songs he wrote in the 1960s.

In 1972, record producer Lee Housekeeper asked Ochs to write the theme song for the film Kansas City Bomber, a film about roller derby starring Raquel Welch.[1][2] Although Ochs enjoyed watching the sport on television, composing the song proved difficult, as Ochs was suffering from writer’s block.[1][2] At last, he made a demo, on which Micky Dolenz of The Monkees sang back-up vocals.[3]

Months later, Ochs was traveling in Australia. Housekeeper told him the film’s producers liked his demo, but it was not exactly what they were looking for. Ochs decided to make a new recording of the song, backed by the Australian rock band Daddy Cool.[4][5]

Ultimately, the film’s producers chose not to use the Ochs song in the soundtrack.[6] Nevertheless, he convinced his record company, A&M Records, to release it as a single. The record sold poorly.[6]

In the only known review of “Kansas City Bomber”, Record World wrote that “progressives will find this a moody change of pace.”[7] Billboard included the single in its “Also Recommended” column.[8]

In 2001, writer Mark Brend described “Kansas City Bomber” as “unremarkable”.[9] Biographer Michael Schumacher wrote in 1996 that the song “was neither an admirable work nor an embarrassment”.[10]

Many Ochs fans never heard “Kansas City Bomber” before it was included in 1988’s The War Is Over: The Best of Phil Ochs. The song was also included in the 1997 collection American Troubadour.

I Ain’t Marching Anymore (song)

“I Ain’t Marching Anymore” (sometimes titled “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” or “I Ain’t A-Marching Anymore”) is an anti-war song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s known for being a passionate critic of the American military industrial complex. Originally released on his 1965 album of the same name, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” is one of Ochs’ best-known songs.

Ochs wrote “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow.[1] The song criticizes all of American military history from the perspective of a weary soldier who has been present at every single war since the War of 1812.[1][2] The chorus notes that “it’s always the old who lead us to the war, always the young to fall” and asks whether the price of military victory has been too high.[2]

Ochs said of the song that it “borders between pacifism and treason, combining the best qualities of both.”[3] He also wrote “the fact that you won’t be hearing this song on the radio is more than enough justification for the writing of it.”[3]

According to one biographer, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” “instantly became [Ochs’] signature song”.[4] Ochs performed it at concerts and rallies for the remainder of his career, almost always drawing cheers from the audience.[5]

Ochs performed the song in 1967 on the ABC television special Dissent or Treason, one of the rare instances in which he appeared on a national American television broadcast.[6][7] In August 1968, Ochs performed “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” during the protests outside the Democratic National Convention, inspiring hundreds of young men to burn their draft cards.[8] Ochs described it as the highlight of his career.[8]

Ochs’ Chicago triumph turned to farce when he was called as a witness in the trial of the Chicago Seven, who were charged with conspiracy and other crimes related to the protests. The defense attorneys asked Ochs to sing “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, but the judge wouldn’t allow it. Instead, Ochs recited the lyrics.[9]

Draft Dodger Rag

“Draft Dodger Rag” is a satirical anti-war song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. protest singer from the 1960s known for being a harsh critic of the American military industrial complex. Originally released on his 1965 album, I Ain’t Marching Anymore, “Draft Dodger Rag” quickly became an anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement.[1]

Ochs wrote “Draft Dodger Rag” as American involvement in the Vietnam War was beginning to grow.[2] The song is sung from the perspective of a gung-ho young man who has been drafted. When he reports for duty, however, the young man recites a list of reasons why he can’t serve, including poor vision, flat feet, a ruptured spleen, allergies and asthma, back pain, addiction to multiple drugs, his college enrollment, his disabled aunt, and the fact that he carries a purse.[2][3] (One historian of the draft resistance movement wrote that Ochs “described nearly every available escape from conscription”.[3]) As the song ends, the young man tells the sergeant that he’ll be the first to volunteer for “a war without blood or gore”.[2][4]

“Draft Dodger Rag” was the first prominent satirical song about the draft during the Vietnam War.[5] One writer says its humor can be appreciated on its own level, without respect to the political message of the song.[6] Another says it added “much-needed humour” to the protest song genre.[7]

Ochs wrote of the song:

In Vietnam, a 19-year-old Vietcong soldier screams that Americans should leave his country as he is shot by a government firing squad. His American counterpart meanwhile is staying up nights thinking up ways to deceptively destroy his health, mind, or virility to escape two years in a relatively comfortable army. Free enterprise strikes again.[8]

Ochs performed “Draft Dodger Rag” in 1965 on a CBS Evening News television special Avoiding the Draft, one of the rare instances in which he appeared on a national American television broadcast.[9][10]

Crucifixion (song)

“Crucifixion” (sometimes titled “The Crucifixion”) is a 1966 song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. singer-songwriter. Ochs described the song as “the greatest song I’ve ever written”.[1]

Ochs wrote “Crucifixion” during a two-hour car ride in the middle of his November 1965 concert tour of the U.K.[2][3] According to Ochs’s manager, Arthur Gorson, the composer was “wary” of how his audience might react to the new song because it did not have an explicit political message.[4] He needn’t have worried; his first public performance of “Crucifixion” was greeted by a standing ovation.[5]

The song is about the rise and fall of a hero, and the public’s role in creating, destroying, and deifying its heroes. The first verse describes an event of cosmic proportions: “the universe explodes”, “planets are paralyzed, [and] mountains are amazed” by the raising of a falling star. In the second stanza, a baby is born; the child has been “chosen for a challenge that is hopelessly hard”, to redeem the world.[6][7] The third and fourth verses describe the hero’s development: he has the insight that “beneath the greatest love, there’s a hurricane of hate”, yet he is driven to spread his message of redemption despite the tremendous difficulty.[8][9]

The fifth and sixth stanzas describe the public acceptance of the hero’s message and their adoration of the hero, but warns that “success is an enemy to the losers of the day” and that the people who are applauding the hero are salivating for his destruction. The hero’s downfall comes in the seventh verse, when “the gentle soul is ripped apart and tossed into the fire”. The eighth stanza quotes the public’s reaction to the hero’s destruction: “Who would want to hurt such a hero?” “I knew he had to fall.” “How did it happen?” “Tell me every detail.”[10][11] In the ninth and tenth verses, the hero’s myth grows as the public’s memory of the events fades, and his message is sterilized; the cycle has ended. “Crucifixion” ends with a repetition of the first stanza, suggesting the birth of a new hero.[12][13]

“Crucifixion” usually is interpreted as an allegory likening the life and assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy to the career of Jesus, although the song may refer to other heroes as well.[9][14][15][16][17] In 1973, Ochs explained “Crucifixion” to Studs Terkel. In the distant past, Ochs said, the people would sacrifice a healthy young man to the gods; today, things were the same.

The Kennedy assassination, in a way, was destroying our best in some kind of ritual. People say they really love the reformer, they love the radical, but they want to see him killed. It’s a certain part of the human psyche—the dark side of the human psyche.[9]

Critical response to “Crucifixion” was mixed. A writer at Beat described the song as “Ochs’ most important work to date”[18] and Billboard wrote that it was “very hip”.[19] Robert Christgau, however, wrote that the song “suffer[s] from elephantiasis of the ambitions”.[20] In March 1967, U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and journalist Jack Newfield met Ochs, who sang “Crucifixion” for them; when Kennedy realized the song was about his brother, tears came to his eyes.[21][22]

Interpreting “Crucifixion” as a song about Jesus, one New Testament scholar[who?] described the Jim and Jean version as the best song about Jesus ever recorded beside the Hallelujah Chorus.

Cross My Heart (Phil Ochs song)

“Cross My Heart” is a 1966 song by Phil Ochs, an American singer-songwriter best known for the protest songs he wrote in the 1960s.

“Cross My Heart” is the first song on Pleasures of the Harbor (1967), Ochs’s first album for A&M Records and his first foray into orchestral instrumentation, or “baroque-folk”.[1] The song describes a world in which a person’s dreams and plans are not as stable and certain as they seem. Nevertheless, the singer expresses optimism: “But I’m gonna give all that I’ve got to give, Cross my heart and I hope to live.”[2]

The musical arrangement on “Cross My Heart” was prepared by Ian Freebairn-Smith. Producer Larry Marks recalled that the orchestra had difficulty keeping pace with Ochs, who tended to slow his singing for the bridge and speed up for the verses.[3]

Both Ochs and Marks thought the song might be a hit, so A&M released it as a single in 1967.[2][3] Billboard included the single among the records it predicted would reach the Hot 100.[4] “Cross My Heart” never reached the charts, nor was it the hit Ochs and Marks had hoped for.

Boston Broadside, in its review of Pleasures of the Harbor, wrote that “Cross My Heart” was “both naive and pretentious … it suffers from the colorlessness of Ochs’ singing”.[5]

Beside the orchestrated version of “Cross My Heart” that appeared on Pleasures of the Harbor, a live version of the song from the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, performed by Ochs accompanying himself on guitar, was released in 1996 on the CD Live at Newport.[6] A demo recording of the song was included in the 1997 box set Farewells & Fantasies.[7]

Other performers who have recorded “Cross My Heart” include Eugene Chadbourne and Jim and Jean.[8]

Bwatue

“Bwatue” is a song by Phil Ochs, a U.S. singer-songwriter best known for the protest songs he wrote in the 1960s. He co-wrote the song with two African musicians named Dijiba and Bukasa.[1] “Bwatue” was written and recorded in 1973.[2]

“Bwatue” was written while Ochs was visiting Kenya.[2] Its lyrics are in Lingala.[3] The title means “canoe”; the lyrics develop the river as a metaphor for life. “Bwatue” was released as a single in Africa by A&M Records. The B-side of the single, “Niko Mchumba Ngombe”, also by Ochs, Dijiba, and Bukasa, was written in Swahili.[3] Both songs were recorded by Ochs with the Pan-African Ngembo Rumba Band.[2] The record was a commercial failure.[2]

“Bwatue” and “Niko Mchumba Ngombe” have been described as early examples of blending Western popular music with world music, and critics note that they predate Paul Simon’s Graceland by more than ten years.[2][3][4] Still, one critic says the record “should be seen more as a curiosity rather than a serious attempt at exploring a new style”.[2] One of Ochs’ biographers cynically suggests that Ochs recorded the songs in order to deduct the cost of his trip to Africa from his income tax as a business expense.[5]

In the early 1990s, the single was reissued in a limited edition of 1000 by Sparkle Records, ostensibly on behalf of the Phil Ochs Fan Club of Canada.[1][6] The reissue was unauthorized and is considered a bootleg.[1]

The only known review of the single was positive. Reviewing the bootleg release in Dirty Linen, Cliff Furnald wrote that “the band gives a superb look at the Zaire/Kenyan dance style at the time before mass marketing started the diluting downward trend”.[7]

Because of the single’s limited release, “Bwatue” and “Niko Mchumba Ngombe” were extremely rare. Most Ochs fans never heard the songs before they were included in 1997’s American Troubadour.[3] “Niko Mchumba Ngombe” was also included in the 2004 collection Cross My Heart: An Introduction to Phil Ochs.

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