Aug 12, 2011

Phil Ochs Lives! New Film, “There But For Fortune”

Phil Ochs
The 1973 overthrow of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende’s by the Chilean military in collusion with the Nixon Administration and the CIA broke Phil Ochs. Phil’s friend – Chilean folksinger Victor Jara – was brutally tortured in a soccer stadium and then murdered in broad daylight with countless other dissenters. While Ochs had enough spirit left in him to organize a benefit for Chilean refugees that featured Bob Dylan and others, the one-two punch of Chicago ’68 and Chile ’73 revealed the enormity and savagery of The Beast – the ruling class – and drained him of hope.

We watched the film, There But for Fortune, on the life of singer-songwriter Phil Ochs (December 19, 1940–April 9, 1976) last weekend, taking a break from electoral politics in Wisconsin into that magical realm where art and music take flight.

I believe Phil Ochs to be the most critical artist of the civil rights and peace movement. He was a wounded man who produced a body of work that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

Phil Ochs fought against war, racism, and hate but as Michael Simmons writes: Ultimately the "beast" killed him at 35-years-old in 1976.

I was at a lot of Scott Walker protests in Madison, Wisconsin in February and March, just freezing at one rally on Feb 26, 2011. So, we stopped in a bar, packed wall-to-wall, and the air was electric, constant laughter.

100,000 people in the street - Feb 26, 2011
Everyone seemed happy just to be out, working for the dream of equality, saying there is affirmation for one's labor and that people matter in this state of Wisconsin. For me, Phil Ochs was in my mind then as firmly as my family, friends and the many people for whom I feel pride in experiencing their lives.

Do yourself a favor and check out Director/writer Kenneth Bowser’s Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune.

There is personal danger is caring and taking personally the harm inflicted onto fellow human beings, but without this danger we disavow ourselves of the joy in living.

By Michael Simmons in CounterPunch

Hurricane Katrina – I can’t afford a vacation to New Orleans anyway so who cares if it washes away? I ain’t gettin’ tortured at Gitmo or Bagram so why should I give a flying Blackwater? And in all fairness, it’s asking a lot of humans with a foreclosed home and a family to feed to worry about wars and disasters in the backyards of others.

The late Phil Ochs, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of the 1960s in a rarefied perch with Dylan, Joni and Cohen, wasn’t a household name but he was big enough to have affected a lot of people. Director/writer Kenneth Bowser’s powerful documentary of his life is called Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune and it’ll tweak your empathy gland while breaking your heart.

Hopefully it’ll also wire and inspire the viewer to go out and demand that America live up to its self-image as a nation of people who care about others. Among the many onscreen friends and troublemakers who tout Phil’s complicated genius include Sean Penn, Paul Krassner, Ed Sanders, Van Dyke Parks, Abbie Hoffman, Christopher Hitchens, Joan Baez, Billy Bragg, Peter Yarrow, and Tom Hayden. Brother Michael Ochs (who also produced), sister Sonny, and daughter and activist Meegan Ochs provide the most personal insights.

Changes, Phil Ochs (1964)

Sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of gray;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

Green leaves of summer turn red in the fall
To brown and to yellow they fade.
And then they have to die, trapped within
the circle time parade of changes.

Scenes of my young years were warm in my mind,
Visions of shadows that shine.
Til one day I returned and found they were the
Victims of the vines of changes.

The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.

Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they're swept away by
golden drops of dawn, of changes.

Passions will part to a strange melody.
As fires will sometimes burn cold.
Like petals in the wind, we're puppets to the silver
strings of souls, of changes.

Your tears will be trembling, now we're somewhere else,
One last cup of wine we will pour
And I'll kiss you one more time, and leave you on
the rolling river shores of changes.

So, sit by my side, come as close as the air,
Share in a memory of gray;
Wander in my words, dream about the pictures
That I play of changes.

When I'm Gone  (Early 1960s)

There's no place in this world where I'll belong when I'm gone
And I won't know the right from the wrong when I'm gone
And you won't find me singin' on this song when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm gone
All the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm gone
My pen won't pour out a lyric line when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't breathe the bracing air when I'm gone
And I can't even worry 'bout my cares when I'm gone
Won't be asked to do my share when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be running from the rain when I'm gone
And I can't even suffer from the pain when I'm gone
Can't say who's to praise and who's to blame when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

Won't see the golden of the sun when I'm gone
And the evenings and the mornings will be one when I'm gone
Can't be singing louder than the guns when I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

All my days won't be dances of delight when I'm gone
And the sands will be shifting from my sight when I'm gone
Can't add my name into the fight while I'm gone
So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

And I won't be laughing at the lies when I'm gone
And I can't question how or when or why when I'm gone
Can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone
So, I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here

I Ain't Marching Anymore 1964-forever


Oh, I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing

But I ain't marching anymore
For I've killed my share of "injuns" in the thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men dying
I saw many more lying

But I ain't marching anymore
It's always the old to lead us to the war
It's always the young who fall

Now look at all we've won with the sabre and the gun
Tell me, is it worth it all?

For I stole California from the Mexican land,
Fought in the bloody civil war
Yes , I even killed my brothers
And so many others
But I ain't marching anymore

For I marched to the battles of the german trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain't marching anymore

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Lit off the frighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain't marching anymore

Now the labor leader's screaming when they close the missile plants
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore

Call it peace or call it treason
Call it love or call it reason,

But I ain't marching anymore ... .

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