INTERESTING STUFF – 1 April 2017
Crabby Old Lady and the Surprising Aggravations of Age

ELDER MUSIC: Where's Phil Ochs When We Need Him?

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Back in the day, if there was a protest in the offing, you could guarantee that Phil Ochs would be there. Even in Chicago, at the Democratic Party convention when the police riot exploded and all the performers chickened out, Phil was there (as were the MC5).

Today, thanks to you-know-who, there's an upsurge in protest music. It's not just the usual suspects either - there are many young performers getting involved. Alas, I'm not really familiar with these new voices so I'll write a column about the ones I remember.

Naturally, I'll start with PHIL OCHS.

Phil Ochs

He was renowned for his in your face protest songs but he wrote others as well. However, just about everything Phil wrote was a protest song but no one outside a small circle of friends realized that.

Sorry to disappoint you, it's not that song either. It's The Party. You might scratch your heads over its inclusion. I don't mind.

♫ Phil Ochs - The Party


MALVINA REYNOLDS would be best known for writing Pete Seeger's biggest hit, Little Boxes.

Malvina Reynolds

Back then, and again these days, the powers that be say that they recognise the right to protest (they're probably just saying that for the cameras) but why not do it so it doesn't inconvenience anyone.

Malvina saw through that gambit and sang about it in her song It Isn't Nice.

♫ Malvina Reynolds - It Isn't Nice


TOM PAXTON was one of the earliest to write about ecological concerns.

Tom Paxton

Of course, Tom was the first to write about just about everything. In fact, he's really the first of the modern singer/songwriters. He was doing that even before Bob got out his trusty typewriter. Tom asks Whose Garden Was This?

♫ Tom Paxton - Whose Garden Was This


I was nearly overwhelmed with choices for JOAN BAEZ.

Joan Baez

I spent most of a morning playing her songs, trying to decide which one to include. I whittled it down to half a dozen, most of which you'd know. However, I finally chose one you may not be familiar with, from out of left field.

I decided on it as it's singularly appropriate for these times. The Trouble with the Truth is that there's not enough of it around these days.

♫ Joan Baez - Trouble with the Truth


Unless you're really familiar with his oeuvre, you probably weren't expecting SAM COOKE today.

Sam Cooke

We all hope fervently that Sam is correct when he sings A Change Is Gonna Come. Well, we hope it's a good change, not the ones that are already taking place.

♫ Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come


As with a couple of songs today, I wondered if the next one really fits the bill. I decided that it did so I've left it in. It's not as if JUDY COLLINS didn't have many songs that would fit today, but this is the one I've chosen.

Judy Collins

The song is The Coming of the Roads, another subtle protest song.

♫ Judy Collins - The Coming of the Roads


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist said, "I suppose you have to include Bob." I suppose she's right, here's BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

You're probably not expecting this one. I played all the obvious songs and rejected them as I didn't think they fit the mood of the column - just a bit strident. So, after doing all that, but not checking all my Bob tracks (that'd take months), I settled on Percy's Song, a more personal protest song than the others.

♫ Bob Dylan - Percy's Song


A long time before any of the other songs today had popped into the mind of the various musicians, BILLIE HOLIDAY had recorded a song that set the tone for the next 60 or 70 years.

Billie Holiday

You all know that I'm talking about Strange Fruit. This is not just here for historical purposes. Rebecca Ferguson was asked to sing at the inauguration and she said she'd do so if she could sing this song. It probably won't come as a shock to you that she was refused.

In her place, however, they had Toby Keith performing a song about lynching what he considered to be ne'er-do-wells. Really! You can't make this stuff up. Well, you can, but it wouldn't be as outrageous as reality.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit


I'm about to be inconsistent. I was talking about the mood of the column up there in Bob's contribution and this certainly is at odds with that, but I thought it really had to be present. CROSBY STILLS NASH & YOUNG.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

It's included not just because it's a great protest song, written in a blaze of white hot fury by Neil Young and then recorded and released in a couple of days when the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students at Kent State University in 1970.

It's also present because Ohio Republican official Dan Adamini said in a tweet: "I'm thinking another Kent State might be the only solution protest after only one death. They do it because they know there are no consequences yet."

I won't even comment on that, not even about the mangled syntax.

Even Trump himself weighed in during the election saying how he liked the old days because protesters would be carried away on a stretcher (I'm paraphrasing a little, but that's the gist of it).

Ohio.

♫ Crosby Stills Nash & Young - Ohio


It's essential that we have another song from PHIL OCHS.

Phil Ochs

The A.M. said that this was her favorite of Phil's (her second was the one we started with). Certain people, especially the buffoon in the White House, should take heed of this one (yeah, as if that's going to happen). There But For Fortune.

♫ Phil Ochs - There But for Fortune


It wouldn't be a protest column if we didn't have a singalong. To supply that we have HOLLY NEAR.

Holly Near

Besides the audience, Holly has some help from Ronnie Gilbert, Arlo Guthrie and (it goes without saying) Pete Seeger. This was recorded back in 1984, but it continues to be relevant. It might be the song for the next four years, Singing For Our Lives.

Holly Near (etc) - Singing For Our Lives


Comments

And besides we're much too high.....

Thank you for this uplifting reminder of the power of the protest song; listening to them again with my partner reinforced our values and desire to join with others to resist oppression and to challenge injustices wherever they occur.

I got to see most of these people playing in little coffee houses or in concert when I was growing up thanks to a folk music loving mother. Judy Collins comes to a small music hall in the woods of Maine every year. I've been fortunate and remember them all.
Malvina also wrote Andorra where they spend 4 dollars and 50 cents for armaments and their defense, have you ever heard of such confidence! Andorra hip hooray.
I can still sing a lot of their songs.

I'm late to comment but I've listened to the protest songs several times. Once with my 12 year old grand daughter who got a brief overview of Nanas youth.
Thanks again for the memories. You guys are great!!
Elle in Oregon

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