Today is the birthday of legendary folk singer Phil Ochs, born on this day December 19, 1940 in El Paso, Texas. Known for his poetic and witty lyrics, clear singing voice, and exceptional musicality, Phil Ochs is an American icon.
Since his musical course spanning the 60s and early 70s, and only recently receiving much deserved wider recognition via documentaries and such, Ochs has inspired many artists. Likewise, Ochs was inspired by several key heroic figures of his time, including the musicianship of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and the acting of John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and James Dean. Ochs was a self-described “left social democrat,” and the heroic spirit he admired in others may have compelled him to use his songwriting platform to deliver his own political messages, performing at many political events in his lifetime.
On a trip to Africa in 1972, Ochs was strangled and mugged in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, resulting in damage to his vocal chords causing the loss of three of the top notes in his range. Afterwards, Ochs became increasingly paranoid and alarmed about the CIA and FBI and their possible involvement in the attack, complaining to friends and acquaintances, many of whom worried about his mental health at this time. And they were rightly concerned, as Ochs died by suicide on April 9, 1976 at the young age of 35 at his sister’s home in Far Rockaway, New York City. Years later, the discovery was made that the FBI had a file of almost 500 pages on Ochs, relating to his artistic ties and protest participation being “subversive.”
Here is “Power and Glory” from his 1964 album All The News That’s Fit To Sing. RIP, Phil Ochs ❤️