I was invited to a screening of a documentary the other night, titled “Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune.” I went in not knowing a thing about him, but I believe, in my heart of hearts, this is not only one of the finest documentaries I’ve seen in recent memory, but it’s also one of the most important. Half because he represents a pertinent political voices of his, or any generation, but because it’s also one of the few docs to cover the ’60s folk scene the way it really was.
A few thoughts on Phil Ochs, who he was, why he mattered, after the jump.
In a Q&A with the director, Ken Bowser, he put out that it seems that when it comes to covering that era of music, Ochs has been erased from the history. Though he had a friendly rivalry with Bob Dylan and was considered, out of the two, to be as much a contender for stardom, Ochs has been relegated to a sort of cult status. Maybe it was not being as accessible as Dylan was, for his direct no-bullshit approach to topical songwriting, or maybe it was simply bad luck. However, his music represents a voice that has gone missing from the public consciousness, and certainly for worse. And even though he was an unapologetic liberal (one of his more popular tunes, later covered by Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon was “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”), I believe that regardless of political leanings it is important that. even though rock and roll is meant to be apolitical, there are exceptions that prove the rule; those exceptions should be vastly talented, unafraid to speak their mind and stand alongside their brothers-in-cause. Phil Ochs, it appears, is the true protest singer that people want Bob Dylan to be.
“Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune” will debut at the IFC Center in New York City on January 5th, with national dates to follow.
Please, please, check out the official site for details and updates.