Phil Ochs (1940-1976): An Appreciation

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He was a boy in Ohio, watching movies and dreaming of James Dean. He was a talented clarinettist in high school, a radical journalist in college. Phil Ochs then switched his pen for a guitar. If the pen is mightier than the sword, he knew, the voice is mightier than both.

For a while, his vision of America fuelled the shared dreams of the 1960s. But somewhere in the troubled finale of that heady decade, he lost his own dream. Today, he would have turned 74.

To celebrate his life rather than his death, this video shows him, impeccably dressed as always, singing one of the greatest anti-war songs of all time. It may be painful to hear the line “serve your country in her suicide” in the light of later events, but it’s impossible to overlook the song’s scorching rhetoric.

Even when he felt his dreams slipping from his grasp, Phil Ochs could turn out a timeless hymn against the madness of war and deliver it in a suit and tie, stunning the audience into admiration. He is still sorely missed.

So do your duty boys and join with pride
Serve your country in her suicide
Find a flag so you can wave goodbye
But just before the end
Even treason might be worth a try
This country is too young to die

Kasper Nijsen

Kasper Nijsen

When not submerged in translator's duties both tedious and necessary, Kasper Nijsen enjoys exploring the less-visited shores of popular music and writing about his exploits for various online magazines. Though born at the tail-end of the 1980s, his musical interests are often found to have strong links with '60s and '70s rock and pop music. Contact Something Else! at
Kasper Nijsen
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