This week, we have been tasked with creating a playlist of the works of Phil Ochs. I thoroughly enjoyed this activity. I learned much about Ochs and his value system in this assignment. I also have found some personal new favorites in this process. Here are my Top 7:
From what I can gather about Ochs, he was unafraid of calling out things that needs to be called out. “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” shines light on individuals that hold liberal values only if it is convenient for them to. This observation made by Phil is relevant still today. This is my favorite of all of his works.
This song is not an Ochs original. It was first performed by Merle Haggard.
This song is special to me for a few reasons. I love this song. I love covers, especially good ones. My partner is from Muskogee, so there is that connection. As a proud Okie myself, I am pretty sure it is a requirement if you are from Oklahoma. It is a protest song, written from the point of the “everyman”. Phil held those narratives close, so it is no surprise that he wanted to add this one to his repertoire.
Phil was a storyteller. He told stories that connected to the “good ol’ boys” and called out oppressive structures in place in society. This is the case in Ringing of Revolution where his target is capitalism.
As a topical singer, Ochs covered current events in his music. This song about Medgar Evers’ assassination is a great example of his commitment to social justice.
Satire is a wonderful tool for sending messages, especially in times of revolution. Draft Dodger Rag uses that method to pass along the outrage of the Vietnam War. I like this song because it was also a great way to help men strategize to get out of the draft, practically laying out the main reasons to be dismissed from service.
Keeping on the theme of topicality, my next choice involves one of Phil’s most popular songs. This one tells the story of the murder of Kitty Genovese. This one has an interesting juxtaposition between the lyrics and the music composition. It is worth checking out for sure.
While critical of American politics and war involvement, Phil clearly loved his country. This is super evident in Power and the Glory. This one I put last because it is the positive one on the playlist. Phil reminds us of the good things about American people. Much like “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie, this anthem reminds me of what we are fighting for. I hope it does in you too.
Check out the playlist on Spotify:
You can find licensing info for the photo used here.
I hope y’all enjoy! Let me know what you think and what songs inspired you.