26 September 2009

Phil Ochs - I Ain't Marching Anymore (1965)

Phil Ochs (1940-1976) was a Vietnam War-era protest singer, singing about civil rights, labour struggles, anti-war ideals, and other liberal topics. He was a friend of Chilean liberal political figures, as well as many American folk musicians of the day.

Later in his career, he became addicted to prescription drugs and fell deeply into alcoholism. When visiting Africa, he was strangled by robbers, which left him partially unable to sing and made him paranoid. He was convinced the government was trying to kill him, and in 1975 he took on the identity of 'John Train', claiming to have murdered Phil Ochs. His friends tried to have him committed, but he instead went to living on the streets. He eventually lost his John Train persona and instead spoke frequently of suicide.
By Phil's thinking, he had died a long time ago: he had died politically in Chicago in 1968 in the violence of the Democratic National Convention; he had died professionally in Africa a few years later, when he had been strangled and felt that he could no longer sing; he had died spiritually when Chile had been overthrown and his friend Victor Jara had been brutally murdered; and, finally, he had died psychologically at the hands of John Train. --from Wikipedia
He was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, and hanged himself in 1976. It was later revealed that the FBI had a 500 page dossier on him, considering him a 'subversive' and potentially dangerous.

Anyway, incredibly tragic life story aside, it's really great high-energy acoustic political folk music. His distinctive voice and guitar playing ensure his timelessness in a genre that does not often grant timelessness.


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