Doughty, Howard A.
College Quarterly, v8 n3 Sum 2005
Phil Ochs was a prominent topical songwriter and singer in the 1960s. He was conventionally considered second only to Bob Dylan in terms of popularity, creativity and influence in the specific genre of contemporary folk music commonly known as “protest music.” Whereas Dylan successfully reinvented himself many times in terms of his musical style and social commentaries, Ochs failed to win critical support when he, too, attempted to transform himself from a broadside balladeer into a more self-consciously artistic lyricist and performer. From the events at the Democratic Party convention in 1968 until his suicide in 1976, Phil Ochs’ public and private life spiraled downward. Today, he would be readily identified as a victim of “bipolar disorder.” Such a psychiatric assessment, while plausible in its own terms, says nothing about the political events that set the context for Phil Ochs’ personal tragedy. This paper attempts to balance the individual and larger contextual themes.