Phil Ochs was already dead when I discovered him. He had killed himself in 1976, four years before I sat on the floor of the KOPN-FM community radio station in Columbia, Missouri, looking for music for my social change radio show. I found the music I needed and a lot more more.
There are some voices in the world so distinctive and soulful that they feel like the home we didn’t know we lost. The first times I heard James Taylor, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bruce Springsteen, Greg Greenway, Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, and Kelley Hunt, I felt like they were old friends I’ve known all my life and whose music seemed to know me also. Phil Ochs is part of that small circle of friends for me, but unlike what he writes about in his song, “Small Circle of Friends,” his music doesn’t turn away from the world’s woes out of self-interest or apathy, but shows up with a fury. Jac Holman, founder of Electra Records, says, “Phil had what was essential: a stance, six strings, and an insistent voice wanting to be heard.” Ochs’ deep passion funneled through clarity, wit, and conviction transcends the sum of his considerable parts: a great sense of rhythm and verve in his songwriting, his vibrant guitar playing and picking, and most of all, his bell of a voice. Altogether, his music shines a spotlight on what’s wrong in the world and how it could be made right.
Read more at The Greatest Folksinger You’ve Never Heard Of