Phil Ochs was born in El Paso, Texas on Dec. 19. 1940. He grew up in
a non-political middle class family. While in college at Ohio State
University, he met Jim Glover who became his roommate and whose father was
Phil's political teacher. It was during this time, while he was majoring
in journalism, that Phil formed his political beliefs and started putting
them to music.
After 3 years of college, Phil dropped out and went to New York City.
This was during the early '60's when things were booming in Greenwich
Village. Phil started out singing at open mikes and passing the hat. By
1964 he was well enough established to release his first album, "All the
News That's Fit To Sing". His second album, "I Ain't Marching Anymore",
was released in 1965, and by 1966 he was able to sell out Carnegie Hall for
his solo concert.
Most of Phil's songs were very political, some humorous and some very
serious. He wrote about the topics of the day - civil rights, Viet Nam,
hungry miners, and personalities such as Billy Sol Estes, William Worthy
and Lou Marsh.
In 1967 he signed with A&M Records where his first release was
"Pleasures of the Harbor" in which he used heavily orchestrated
arrangements for the first time. Some fans criticized this change, while
others accepted it.
Phil continued to perform and to travel around the world. While in
Dar Es Salaam, he was mugged and lost the top three notes of his vocal
range. This event seemed to send him on a downward spiral. His last years
were troubled ones. He suffered from manic depression plus an affinity for
the bottle. He committed suicide on April 9, 1976 at the age of 35.
Many of Phil's songs have been covered by other artists. Some of his
best known songs are: "Changes", "There But For Fortune", "I Ain't
Marching Anymore", "Draft Dodger", "Small Circle of Friends", Crucifixion"
and "When I'm Gone".
There have been 2 biographies written about him. Death of a Rebel by
Marc Elliot was written in 1977, and There But For Fortune - The Life of
Phil Ochs by Michael Schumacher was published in 1996. Rhino Records
released a 3-cd compilation titled Farewells and Fantasies in 1997 which
includes all of his best known works plus some previously unreleased
tracks. Sliced Bread Records released a double cd of covers of Phil's
songs performed by 28 artists in 1998 entitled
The Songs of Phil Ochs.
For more on Phil, visit the Phil Ochs Web Page and
Hugh Blumenfeld's Phil Ochs Page.