Phil Ochs on American Masters

When I first glanced at the subject of Monday’s “American Masters” program, I didn’t have a clue about the person they were profiling.  A little research revealed the subject was a successful singer-songwriter during  the 1960′s.  I was a bit younger in those days, if the song didn’t come from a Disney movie it wasn’t on my radar scope!   Fortunately for Phil Ochs he was making his mark on a crowd that had a few more years on me.

Phil Ochs has been described as one of the most politically active singer-songwriters to emerge in the 1960′s anti-Vietnam War era.  Did you know he was also a journalism student at The Ohio State University.  It was during his time at OSU, like most all young people off to college for the first time,  that Phil formed his political beliefs and started putting them to music.

I listened to a few of his songs, and I can see why he was wildly popular during this time.  He wrote about the topics of the day – civil rights,Viet Nam, hungry miners and personalities.   I enjoyed “Boy From Ohio” probably because of all the local references in the lyrics.

A cohort of Bob Dylan’s and Abbie Hoffman’s, it’s no surprise  he became  disillusioned with the government and several of his heroes. The victim of a mugging abroad that damaged his vocal range  and a familial tendency to bi-polar disease, Phil Ochs committed suicide in April 1976 at the age of 35.   “American Masters” presents a nice profile on this former Ohio State student and successful folk singer.

American Masters: Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” airs Monday, January 23 at 10:00pm on WOSU TV with an encore presentation Tuesday, January 24 at 10:00pm on WOSU PLUS.




  • Brian Griffin

    Thank you for showing this…Phil’s music and message are still relevant now more than ever!