Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s

Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.

 

Back in the early 1960s the Civil Rights Movement was picking up momentum. Martin Luther King was organising marches, sit-ins, boycotts and protests. There was a move towards gaining equality for people regardless of creed, race or religion. Segregation was rife and needed to be utterly destroyed.

The Folk Movement had come out of the Left Wing protests of the 1950s with its social messages from the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers. It stood for freedom, equality and fairness. It supported the unions, fair pay and social justice.

The songs that came out of the early sixties were termed protest songs. They were songs for human rights and justice.

Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton were at the forefront singing songs that helped rouse the conscience of the world. The white liberals and radicals joined with the blacks to fight for equality.

With songs like ‘Blowing in the Wind’, ‘To Ramona’, ‘The Ballad of Hollis Brown’, ‘The Ballad of Medgar Evans’, ‘Links on the Chain’, Power and the Glory’, ‘Only a Pawn in their Game’, ‘Chimes of Freedom’, ‘We Shall Overcome’, ‘Here to the State of Mississippi’ and hundreds more, the singer/songwriters took a stance, sang their truth, and opposed the Jim Crow laws. They put their bodies on the line. They supported the freedom riders and went on the marches.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez performed at the great march on Washington that drew a million people in to hear Martin Luther King speak.

Their voice told the black protestors that they were not alone. White supporters went down South to support the protests and were killed by the rabid racist Klu Klux Klan along with the blacks they were supporting.

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Days of Decision – Phil Ochs

It is uncanny how Phil Ochs songs resonate with today. This was a song written in the early sixties about the civil rights movement. It was about the murder of the three young civil rights activists –  Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, also known as the Freedom Summer murders.

Back then the Klan and other White Supremacist fascists were marching on the streets.

Decisions had to be made concerning which side you were on. Were you with the racist scum or were you going to be part of a civilised nation?

Well the fascists are marching again. The nation has to decide which side to support.

As the FBI investigates Kavanaugh – a decision has to be made.

As we tackle global warming and the right-wing deniers there are decisions to be made.

As the inequality soars and the 1% global elite get away with murder there are decisions to be made.

As the Me Too sets about addressing patriarchal society there are decisions to be made.

As the midterm elections loom there are decisions to be made.

As the chaos of Brexit looms there are decisions to be made.

These are the days of decision.

Oh, the shadows of doubt are in many a mind,
Lookin’ for an answer they’re never gonna find,
But they’d better decide ’cause they’re runnin’ out of time,
For these are the days of decision.

Oh, the games of stalling you cannot afford,
Dark is the danger that’s knocking on the door,
And the far-reaching rockets say you can’t wait anymore,
For these are the days of decision.

In the face of the people who know they’re gonna win,
There’s a strength that’s greater than the power od the wind,
And you can’t stand around when the ice is growing thin,
For these are the days of decision.

I’ve seen your heads hinding ‘neath the blankets of fear,
When the paths they are plain and the choices are clear,
But with each passing day, boys, the cost is more dear
For these are the days of decision.

There’s many a cross that burns in the night,
And the fingers of the fire are pointing as they bite,
Oh you can’t let the smoke keep on blinding all your sight,
For these are the days of decision.

Now the mobs of anger are roamin’ the street,
From the rooftops they are aimin’ at the police on the beat,
And in city after city you know they will repeat,
For these are the days of decision.

There’s been warnin’s of fire, warnin’s of flood,
Now there’s the warnin’ of the bullet and the blood,
From the three bodies buried in the mississippi mud,
Sayin’ these are the days of decision.

There’s a change in the wind, and a split in the road,
You can do what’s right or you can do what you are told,
And the prize of the victory will belong to the bold,
Yes, these are the days of decision.

Phil Ochs – Love Me I’m a Liberal – Still pertinent today! Protest!!

Phil Ochs was the political voice of a generation. He played second fiddle to Bob Dylan but who didn’t?

America seems to have lost it’s left wing. What passes for the Left now is just soft right? McCarthy was far more long lasting than anyone realised. There is a knee-jerk reaction to anything socialist – they’ve been fed all the lines!!

But fairness, justice and equality are worth fighting for. They sure aren’t apparent in American politics these days. It’s all selfishness, greed, individuality, and who cares.

Phil Ochs was a socialist revolutionary.

Phil Ochs – Love Me I’m a Liberal

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I’d lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don’t talk about revolution
That’s going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I’m glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don’t move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can’t understand how their minds work
What’s the matter don’t they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I read New republic and Nation
I’ve learned to take every view
You know, I’ve memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I’m almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There’s no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I’ll send all the money you ask for
But don’t ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I’ve grown older and wiser
And that’s why I’m turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

Favourite Protest songs – Phil Ochs – When I’m Gone – A song about now!

So who is it out there who’s picked up the challenge? So much to protest about and so little protest. Has music lost its balls?

I think so.

Phil was the epitome of protest. We need people like that now with Trump, Brexit, runaway capitalism, wars and environmental destruction.

He did it while he was here but who’s doing it when he’s gone? Who’s singing louder than the guns?

Phil Ochs – When I’m Gone

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

Phil Ochs – Changes – the most beautiful Love song – a eulogy to Life

This is the most beautiful song. A song of love and life that looks back over a lifetime. Everything is change. What a wonderful journey through this universe, through this life, through love.

Changes by Phil Ochs

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.

When I’m Gone – Phil Ochs

When I’m Gone – Phil Ochs

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 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 while 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

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, I guess I’ll have to do it, guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore – Great anti-war song lyrics.

Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore – Great anti-war song lyrics.

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Phil Ochs was one of the great ‘Protest’ singers from the sixties. His music was topical with a social and political message.

I’m reclaiming the word ‘Protest’ because it was used pejoratively as a put down by the establishment. There is nothing wrong with protest and dissidence. We need our voices speaking out about madness. They make you stop and think and maybe re-evaluate. Is there a better way? Is this a knee-jerk reaction? Is war the best option?

War – what does it solve? There’s no money to solve poverty or rebuild our slums. Yet miraculously there’s always money for stealth bombers. We built our cities up. We knock ’em down.

We elect psychopaths because they are strong, black and white and clear. We love strong leadership. We react emotionally and hit out instead of rationally and thoughtfully with diplomacy and communication. We like to be strong. We will not be pushed around!

We build them up. We knock ’em down.

Lives are destroyed.

Phil was a voice who spoke out against the madness of war. He thought there was a better way.

I Ain’t Marching Anymore

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 Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying, I saw many more dying
But I ain’t marching anymore

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber 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

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty 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 screamin’
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
No, I ain’t marching anymore

Phil Ochs – Opher’s World pays Tribute to a Genius.

Phil Ochs – Opher’s World pays tribute to a genius.

Phil OchsDylan accused Ochs of being a journalist. That was far from the truth. Phil, like Bob, did scout through the newspapers to find stories and causes that would resonate with his ideals. But that isn’t all he did. He chose his words and aimed them at their targets with honesty and craft.

Phil was a part of that early sixties Folk scene in Greenwich Village. He was the most political and outspoken of them all. He was a ‘Protest’ singer. There’s nothing wrong in being a protest singer. There’s a lot that needs protesting about. It got itself a bad name after Dylan popularised ‘Protest’ and made it a commercial success. The media coined the phrase, ridiculed it, pigeon-holed it and every Tom Dick and Harry jumped on the band-wagon. They all wanted a bit of that fame and fortune that Dylan had grabbed. We need our protest singers. We need to protest. If only we had our Och’s and early Dylan’s to high-light the woeful capitalist exploitation, global inequality, war and wanton of destruction of the environment we might be better placed to deal with it. Where are the singers writing songs about the butchery of the elephants, rhinos and apes? When are we going to hear songs about the crazy overpopulation crisis that is destroying the world? Surely the new generations have the talent but do they have the sensibilities, the compassion and idealism that Phil and Bob possessed? Can they create a zeitgeist to carry a whole generation along with them like Bob and Phil did?

Both Dylan and Ochs baled out of ‘Protest’ into more poetic expressions of artistic depths. Phil always seemed to walk in Bob Dylan’s shadow and was consumed with jealousy and destroyed by alcoholism before killing himself.

But should not detract from the work he produced. His early work was full of fervour and idealism. He tirelessly set about writing his songs of hope. He shone a searchlight on the issues going on around us and by highlighting them raised them up into everyone’s consciousness. He brought those issues to life and wakened the consciousness of a generation. We became enlightened to the atrocities going on around us and activated to protest about it.

Phil targeted the civil rights war that was being fought particularly in the Southern States where the Blacks were free but still kept in slavery, where they were denied votes, rights and equality and lived in poverty and fear. Where racism was endemic, the Klu-Klux-Klan ruled and people still got lynched, beaten and tortured for speaking out or stepping out of line, where there was no justice. He sang about the assignation of Medgar Evans, the murder of civil rights campaigners and the way the hierarchy supported the suppression of black rights. People had been killed for less.

Phil targeted the war in Vietnam and American foreign policy where they felt entitled to invade other countries with impunity and sanctimoniously set themselves up as Cops of the World, dishing out their gum, rape, casual violence and disdain.

Phil targeted injustice and fought for a strong union system to protect the rights of workers yet he felt free to criticise the unions in their stance to Blacks and Communists. He had no faith in government, the establishment or the legal system. They all had their snouts in the same trough.

Phil was a man of integrity who followed on in the tradition set by Woody Guthrie. He wasn’t afraid to put his face where his words were. His songs were full of intent yet he deployed humour and produced well-crafted works of art. He was unique and that was probably his downfall. He was a little too quirky and out of step with the times. He did not easily slip into the long-haired freaks of the sixties counter-culture. He was a bit too political, too extreme and too different. He did not adopt the same uniform of freakdom or produce music with the right instrumentation for the times. He did get heavily involved with the YIPPIE political group and all their antics but he was still a little left-field. He did espouse all the right causes but he did it his way and did not quite fit in to the zeitgeist of the time. Where Dylan easily slipped from Protest to an equally incredible stream of consciousness and mercurial new sound that rode the crest of the new consciousness Phil’s created a sound that was not so much of the moment.

In hindsight it is possible to appreciate the later songs and albums. They had depth and intricacy that was just as wonderful as his early protest material. You can sense his desperation and disillusionment seeping through. He deserved much more. If he had not been so ignored and put down he probably would have blossomed even more. Who knows?

Phil left us a legacy of greatness with songs like ‘Cops of the World’, ‘Links on the chain’, ‘Here’s to the State of Mississippi’, ‘Too many martyrs’, ‘I ain’t marching anymore’. ‘There but for fortune’, ‘When I’m gone’, ‘Changes’ and so many more, that still resonate to this day!

Phil was an outspoken genius. We are desperate for more like him. Perhaps he will inspire a new generation who will create a new positive zeitgeist, highlight the wrongs and put us back on the right road.

We miss you Phil.

A Phil Ochs Day! What we need in oppressive times!

Well to finish my blog with a further week of some of my favourite people I have chosen Phil Ochs.

Phil Ochs was a very political spokesman who came out of the Greenwich Village in the 60s. His forte was to highlight social issues of the day and put them into song. He was very prolific and followed in the Woody Guthrie tradition.

Phil stood up for the underdog and was involved in the Civil Rights movement. He later became involved in the alternative culture of Yippie politics with the likes of Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman.

Like Dylan Phil was at the forefront of producing songs of social import and opposing the Vietnam War. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believed.

In these days of Trump and Brexit we are crying out for people like him. He would have had a field day. I’m sure he would have been spearheading the protests and standing up for women’s rights, black lives matter and to protect the environment. He stood for a universal equality and protection for the planet.

 

Phil Ochs Quotes – A man who sang songs of protest, humour and beauty.

Unfortunately I did not manage to see Phil perform live – but I’ve got every single thing he ever produced – including all the live stuff available. I liked all his phases. His first period of creativity was writing topical songs. Dylan accused him of merely being a journalist. He was always a lot more than that. Like Dylan he selected news items to transform into songs. He wrote songs which had real bite but still had a lot of humour and satire. As the sixties progressed he developed a more poetic surreal style with songs full of imagery and intricacy. It seemed that he was always following in Dylan’s footsteps and falling short. There again – everybody fell short. In the late sixties he was heavily involved with the politics of the YIPPIE movement along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

Phil wrote many excellent songs on social issues – civil rights and anti-war. But he also wrote songs of great beauty. Joan Baez recorded his wonderful ‘There But For Fortune’ but of his more beautiful songs I prefer ‘Changes’ – it has so very special lines.

Unfortunately alcohol and depression ate Phil away and he took his own life. What a waste.

Phil left behind a legacy of real songs – songs with meaning and passion.

In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.
Looks like with Trump/Clinton we need to protest with a reaffirmation of beauty. That’s a true rebellion against hatred.
Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion. That’s art. That’s life.
The gesture is maybe all we have – perhaps all we ever had. But gestures are important. It is best to have fought for what is right and lost rather than never having tried.
The final story, the final chapter of western man, I believe, lies in Los Angeles.
I suppose Los Angeles epitomised all the harshness and brutality of modern civilisation with its greed, selfishness and violence. That uncaring attitude is what is destroying the planet. The concrete and smog replace the green plantations and nature. The viciousness that puts profit before people or nature.