Sunday, November 9, 2008

Song of the Week - I Ain't Marching Any More by Phil Ochs

Those of you out there who are much younger than 50 wouldn't remember and maybe wouldn't even know, but there was a short time when folk music was king in the US. In between 1950's rock 'n' roll and the British Invasion in 1964, folk music ruled the radio air waves. This is when people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs became popular. Some of these artists (Bob Dylan comes immediately to mind), rode out the early 1060s rock years and gained wider popularity. Others, like Tom Paxton, remained folkies, appealing to smaller audiences but still performing for many years. Others, to be sure, dropped into obscurity. Also during this time rose the concept of the protest singer. All of the people I mentioned above, at one time or another, were protest singers. What were they protesting you ask? Injustice, racial inequality, the Vietnam War were all topics. Phil Ochs probably embraced the protest singer ethos the most. But by the end of the 1960s folk music and protest singing were way out of fashion. Phil Ochs apparently could not change with the times. Plus, growing mental illness (depression) and alcoholism took its toll. This story does not have a happy ending. Phil Ochs took his own life in 1976.

I only had the privilege of seeing him perform once at the legendary folk club near Philadelphia called the Main Point. This was in the early 1970s when his career was essentially over. He was attempting to reinvent himself as a 1950s rockabilly type, complete with a gold lame' suit. It was not an enjoyable show. I knew how great he had been and it was beyond sad to see what he'd become.

I don't actually own this song but it is one of his best. The song is timeless.

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