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Phil Ochs There But For Fortune

Submitted by MBergeron on June 29, 2011 – 5:59 pmNo Comment
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Oh look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed. They’ve dragged her to the bushes and now she’s being stabbed. Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain. But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game.

That paragraph is one of the verses of the Phil Ochs song “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.” Some have heard of Ochs and probably more have heard of the people that populate the documentary Phil Ochs There But For The Fortune. Personages like Christopher Hitchens, Joan Baez, Peter Yarrow, Paul Krassner, Sean Penn, Jello Biafra or Pete Seeger. Bob Dylan, while not in the film is a focal point because in an alternative universe Phil Ochs is the Dylan of that cosmology.

Phil Ochs: There But For The Fortune is an important documentary covering both an unsung chapter in the history of American folk music as well as a social/political examination of the 60s. POTBFTF will be unwinding this Thursday (June 30) through July 4 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Brown Auditorium. In his day Ochs sold out Carnegie Hall so his legend is justified.

Friends or more famous musicians and commentators wax philosophically on the era and try to account for the transition of Ochs from a contemporary of Dylan to someone who would turn down paying gigs to play a benefit for some guy who hands out free fruit. Seeger recalls being with Ochs and Dylan together in the office of a fanzine before either of them was recorded and just feeling the vibe of emerging talent. But the doc doesn’t focus exclusively on this tangent.

There’s coverage of the war protests and Ochs contribution to same. Then there’s the part of the story where Ochs is depressed, heavily drinking and eventually commits suicide. Ochs hung himself in 1976, another reason a lot of people haven’t heard of Ochs. If you consider the 60s-era one of civil rights accomplishments and protest publicity then you have to concur that Phil Ochs’ songs are the soundtrack to that sea of change.

- Michael Bergeron

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