Dylan Jones: 'Bob Dylan once kicked Phil Ochs out of his car saying, 'You’re not a folk singer, you're a journalist'

Share
Related Topics

Barack Obama has never spoken of his fondness for the late Phil Ochs, and it is completely possible that he has never heard of him. One of America's foremost protest singers, he described himself as a "left social democrat", and during the Sixties became a staple at civil rights rallies, student sit-ins, and anti-Vietnam marches.

Originally a political journalist, he started writing political songs when he was introduced to the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and the Weavers. He would later call himself "the singing journalist", in much the same way that Allan Smethurst would later call himself "the singing postman" – once, when riding with Bob Dylan, he criticised one of his songs, at which Dylan kicked him out of the car, saying, "You're not a folk singer, you're a journalist".

Although he was best known for songs such as "Is There Anybody Here?", "I Ain't Marching Anymore", "Here's To The State Of Mississippi" and "Here's To The State Of Richard Nixon", the song for which Ochs ought to be remembered is "Love Me, I'm A Liberal". In this lovingly constructed rant, rather than assailing Conservatives, Ochs castigates 'liberals' who fall short of affecting social change: "I cried when they shot Medgar Evers," he sings, "Tears ran down my spine. I cried when they shot Mr Kennedy, as though I'd lost a father of mine... But Malcolm X got what was coming, he got what he asked for this time. So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal..."

There is a great YouTube clip of Ochs introducing the song at a concert, in which he says, "In every American community you have varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals... Ten degrees to the left of centre in good times. Ten degrees to the right of centre if it affects them personally." These words, and Ochs' lyrics, have started to gain traction in the blogosphere, as it becomes fashionable to accuse Obama of reneging on his campaign promises. Personally, the attacks seems trite, although I wouldn't be surprised if Nick Clegg wasn't made aware of Phil Ochs sometime soon.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
.  

When league tables claim that 0% of students at top schools are getting a good education, it's glaringly obvious that they need to be scrapped

Chris Sloggett
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links