NOW That’s What I Call Phil Ochs

amst3683, Phil Ochs

I stole my title from the unavoidable CD compilations of ‘today’s top hits’ of the 90’s and early 2000’s NOW That’s What I Call Music.  The ads were a huge part of my childhood, constantly popping up between episodes of Spongebob or whatever else I was watching.  Although the title is a play on words and represent a brand that Phil Ochs probably would have detested which is part of the irony, I do want to make note of the emphasis on the ‘NOW’. My playlist is comprised of songs by Ochs that I believe could have been written today.  Whether Ochs is just a timeless songwriter or things are still just as  fucked screwed is up to you, I like to believe its a little bit of both.

The War Is Over

I chose this song for my opener because of its gaudy, circus-like opening with a big band. Ochs wrote this song as a way to protest the Vietnam War.  His logic was that if you declare the war over, it could actually catch on.  I really enjoy the comedy and irony that one will find in his earlier works.  I find this song still true today seeing as we have been involved with ‘conflicts’ and war in the middle east for how long now?  I wrote in a previous article how Lady Gaga covered the song during a free concert  at the 2016 DNC.  Lady Gaga clearly also thought of the song as timely

Love Me I’m A Liberal

My next choice was another comedic song by Ochs.  This one is written specifically to call out what we now call ‘neoliberals‘.  I believe that complacency of liberals during the Obama administration lead to some of the issues we are facing as a nation today.   This song pokes fun at those who are liberal to a point, enough to have their democrat card, but not when it affects them personally.

I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don’t talk about revolution
That’s going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

Here’s to the State of Missisippi

A few weeks ago at a rally to support DACA, after having marched from the Tulsa Court House to the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office- and hearing a speech from Amarani– a young man pulled out his guitar.  This young man had been relatively quiet up until this point.  He began to play this song but subbed the lyrics for more relevant ones to the DACA rally, inviting Trump to find another country to be part of.  Although the old lyrics stand true I was excited by this modern display of Ochsism and the fact that other people were still finding Ochs relevant and inspiring as well.

Power and Glory

Many people feel that this is one of Ochs’ strongest songs.  This song references the Catholic Doxology which follows The Lord’s Prayer.  It marries themes of christianity to American nationalism and militarism.  Presently, much of the American government treats christianity as the national religion and has clear influences regardless of the separation of church and state which is stated in the constitution.  Additionally, America faces many struggles with the prison for profit systems.

There But For Fortune

It seems as though most people know this song as a Joan Baez song. This song is another anti war protest song but also touches on many issues facing the nation.  I chose this song to round off my short playlist because it addresses multiple issues that the US still struggles with, from incarceration, homelessness, alcohol/rx abuse and, and finally the military.


3 thoughts on “NOW That’s What I Call Phil Ochs

  1. Andrea,
    I couldn’t agree with you more about the fact that so many of Ochs’ songs could’ve been written today. It’s amazing how many problems persist in our nation and compared to 50 years ago, it seems quite worse. I love the fact that you’ve chosen a theme for your playlist, it’s given me a reason to listen a bit harder.


  2. What I find fascinating about the songs you chose was the current implications of them – Especially given how topical Phil Ochs was. In a way, it demonstrates history repeating itself. It’s especially interesting by looking at ‘Neoliberalism’ and how it was the original version of liberal that our families and ancestors participated in. It’s rather unusual how the times changes in only about 50 years.


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