Crucifixion (Phil Ochs)

‘‘America has contributed many art forms to the world and we find many others,’’ claimed US folk singer Phil Ochs matter-of-factly before a performance of ‘‘Crucifixion’’ in 1973, ‘‘one of these we find here is that of assassination.’’ The comment was characteristically controversial of Ochs, but after suffering a number of political blows in the 1960’s, the songwriter had grown increasingly fatigued and disillusioned, and it was a statement that was very much personal for Ochs.

When Ochs had performed ‘‘Crucifixion’’ for U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and journalist Jack Newfield back in 1967; realising the song was about his brother, Kennedy had been brought to tears.

Written during a two hour road trip whilst on his 1965 tour of the UK, ‘‘Crucifixion’’ is a deeply philosophic profile on the nature of hero slaying, an issue still raw in American consciousness two years after the assignation of President John F. Kennedy, and, prophetically, three years before the killings of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Veering from the overtly political material that had so far dominated Ochs’ career, ‘‘Crucifixion’’ instead delves deep into a disturbing aspect of human nature.

Littered with vivid poetic imagery, evocative rhymes and religious symbolism, the song depicts the rise and fall of a beloved hero destined for sacrifice, and closing with the opening verse, Ochs also seems to suggest that such a fate will continue to repeat itself throughout the course of human history.


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