Why Phil Ochs is the obscure ’60s folk singer America needs in 2017

“Anybody know who Phil Ochs is?” Lady Gaga called out to her audience at a free concert last summer during the Democratic National Convention. Her setlist that day was eclectic: from the Beatles to Edith Piaf to her own gay rights anthem, “Born This Way.” But her decision to perform Ochs’s “The War Is Over,” a 1967 folk song about Vietnam, was particularly surprising.

 

It isn’t often that Ochs, who died four decades ago and is mostly unknown to those born since the 1970s, gets even a brief moment of mainstream recognition. Yet as we enter the Trump era, and as a new mass protest movement begins to take shape, his music would be worthy of a revival. Taken together, his songs offer an exceptionally compelling tour of the deepest questions currently confronting liberals — questions about democracy, dissent and human decency in a grim political age.

The song Lady Gaga performed is a good example. “The War Is Over” was composed in the middle of the Vietnam War but insists that the conflict had already ended. “One-legged veterans will greet the dawn,” Ochs sang. “And they’re whistling marches as they mow the lawn. And the gargoyles only sit and grieve. The gypsy fortune teller told me that we’d been deceived. You only are what you believe. I believe the war is over. It’s over, it’s over.”

Read more at . . .Why Phil Ochs is the obscure ’60s folk singer America needs in 2017

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