Philip David Ochs (December 19, 1940–April 9, 1976) was a U.S. protest singer (or, as he preferred, a “topical singer”), songwriter, musician and recording artist who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and haunting voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and released eight LP record albums in his lifetime.
He performed at many political events, anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and at organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s The Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a “left social democrat” who turned into an “early revolutionary” after the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which had a profound effect on his state of mind. He was often seen as a radical and also a patriot — though he was also interested in differing political philosophies as well as journalism, and was an avid fan of music and movies.
After years of prolific writing in the 1960s, Ochs’ mental stability declined in the 1970s and eventually he succumbed to a number of problems including bipolar disorder, depression, and alcoholism, and he took his own life in 1976.
Some of his major influences were Woody Guthrie (though he had never heard of him until his college roomate, Jim (Jim And Jean) played some of Woody’s records), Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, Merle Haggard (as being ‘the best right wing had’), John Wayne, and John F. Kennedy. His best known songs include “Power and the Glory”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “There But for Fortune”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion, “When I’m Gone”, “Love Me I’m a Liberal”, “Links on the Chain”, “Ringing of Revolution”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, and “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”.