Barely a month after Phil’s death, there was a large memorial concert at the Felt Forum, the same venue that had hosted the Chile Benefit barely a year before. That night, May 28, 1976. his friends Jim and Jean, Melanie, Pete Seeger, Tim Hardin, and many more gathered to pay tribute to the singer who was gone far too soon. That same year tribute songs had already been written about Phil. And to this day, they continue to be written and recorded by musicians inspired by Phil and his unique contributions to American music.
As voted on by the Facebook group Celebrating Phil Ochs’ 75th Birthday, here are the top three tribute songs dedicated to Phil.
Phil by Tom Paxton
Definitely the most intimate and emotional of the three, this song recounts the day that Paxton read that Phil had died. Paying great tribute to Phil’s own sense of humor, Paxton’s witty banter about Phil’s argumentative but caring nature provides a sharp contrast to the poignancy of the words of the song. One listen and you will know why it was chosen at the number one song.
I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night by Billy Bragg
Any fan of folk music will quickly realize that Bragg borrowed this tune from the poem of I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night by Alfred Hayes which was later set to music by Earl Robinson. In a way it is quite fitting that Bragg chose this song tin which to honor Phil, as Phil very followed much followed in the footsteps of Joe Hill as an American political troubadour. Many fans of Bragg would eventually becomes fans of Phil’s because of this song.
The Parade’s Still Passing By by Harry Chapin
This is the earliest of the three songs, recorded just months after Phil had died. Chapin’s song recalls Phil as someone who goes through hell, but through it all, Phil was willing to pay that cost if it meant the world could be just a little better. The last lines sum up what all three songs, and everyone who knew him, could tell you if you didn’t already know by now: Phil cared and he acted on that caring in his life and music.
But your greatest gift
And the curse you lived with
Was that you could always care