Phil Ochs’ music has a rather personal touch to me personally. As I was raised primarily by a former 1960’s musician who avoided ‘Nam and a Native American rights activist / artist, I have had a liberal point of view for the majority of life and still today. Phil’s music however…It hit several points for my life. Playlist can be found here.
When I’m Gone
Majority of my friends struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies, much as what took over Phil Ochs in the end. This song fully encapsulates the thinking that they struggle with – That the world isn’t for them. That their problems will still cling to them like pet fur to a white coat. No love, no sanctuary…Only freedom from the clutches of living with pain and suffering.
Love Me, I’m a Liberal
As much as it might offend some people, I’m a liberal. When others were playing baseball or football in High School, myself and a group of other students worked with Planned Parenthood to get Sex Education classes to more schools in addition to distributing condoms for the entire school (They eventually became currency for homework and other questionable things, but not the point right now.). This song brings home that Phil Ochs wanted equality for all – That things can be peaceful, against the actions of Malcolm X and how we can be united for all. The ideals of the UN, and the ‘reception’ that can be caused by protesting just pleading for love. Love me, I’m a liberal in a nation that doesn’t want people to speak.
Draft Dodger Rag
Going back to my godfather, he avoided the draft by claiming he was gay (1960’s were a different time) and ingesting so many beets, it looked like he was urinating blood. He’s even told me the his friends who got drafted and him started up the night before they shipped out listening to the Beatles White Album. Everyone but him passed out and he spent the night crying quietly and listening to that record on repeat. And out of his 14 friends who went out…Only 1 returned. A front line paramedic pilot who has several hours of fly time over battlefields torn apart by the jaws of war, and the carnage left behind. This song shows that people could’ve supported the war but didn’t want to end up just another nameless lost for Johnson to give his condolences to.
Do What I Have To Do
It’s no surprise that I don’t speak much. In fact, people have actually thought I’m mute I speak so little. But when I do speak, I want it to have significance. I want it to mean something – I want to be adamant about my positions and opinions. So much like Phil, I’m gonna do what I have to do to make this world better.
This shows the era of Phil. That everyday comes. The sun still is going to shine. That your hang over or acid trip will be gone…And that things will change, no matter how rough things get. And that the morning is something that we should carry with us, as a reminder that yes our drinks are done and yes horrible atrocious are happening but it’s ok. It’s morning.
My personal playlist shows the ideas of Phil Ochs: A troubled soul who wanted change. That he understood the perils of his ideas, and that things will change – Hopefully for the better. But that tragically, he was right – Things have changed. Are we really any better today? I would like to close out with a couple of lines from “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.”