Phil Ochs is an American singer and songwriter who became popular in the 1960s and 1970s for his witty approach to political activism. He released a total of eight albums throughout his career, writing hundreds of songs. Not all of his songs were well-received. Much depended upon which side of the anti-war issue you were on. He had just as many enemies as fans, but Ochs achieved the goal of influencing listeners and encouraging continued protests for peaceful resolutions to the violence of war. He passed away in the spring of 1976, but his music is still remembered. He had a way of making us laugh while getting his point across. Remembering Phil Ochs, here are the 10 best songs of his career.
“Changes” was one of the top ten favorite Phil Ochs songs as ranked by My Jams contributors. Phil was known as an artist with powerful reflections on the past, who observed changes that affected the environment and the quality of life for the American people. Often, his message was not about the positive things that happen through change, but rather, the things that make us realize it’s time to say something to try to bring about the changes that will benefit mankind.
9. “Here’s To The State of Mississippi”
“Here’s To The State of Mississippi” is a passionate song that came out on his “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” album. It scathed the state of Mississippi and brought to light some of the worst hate crimes ever committed. It became one of the most controversial songs of his career with some hating it and others understanding that more than an attack on the state, it was a call for change. The evil that took place within the judicial system and blatant racism at all levels was merely exposed. It was more about fixing the problem than slamming Mississippi.
8. “One Way Ticket Home”
This song is about returning to your roots and the familiar. It is a popular Ochs song that most listeners can relate to. There are times when the world around us seems foreign with an evolution that is not going in a positive direction. How many times have you wished for the simpler times when all seemed right with your world and you weren’t afraid to walk down the street?
7. “Cross My Heart”
“Cross My Heart” is a song that received mixed reviews upon its initial release. It came out as a track on the “Pleasures of the Harbor” album in 1967. The most outstanding qualities of this song are its introduction of baroque folk styling, which became popular among folk singers during the 1960s and early ’70s. It’s a song about plans and dreams that are optimistic, yet uncertain. It’s mostly about hope in uncertain times, and this is a sentiment that many of us can embrace today
6. “I Aint Marching Anymore”
“I Ain’t Marching Anymore is the titular song of the album of the same name. “I Aint Marching Anymore” was one of Ochs’ most powerful and popular anti-Vietnam war songs that made its debut during the sixties at the height of the movement. The song continued to inspire fans against military actions throughout the period. He performed the song at large protest marches, joining in the efforts to get the attention of the American government, that the people of this country are against war.
5. “Outside A Small Circle of Friends”
Return of Rock cites this song as one of his best commentary songs about the infamous Kitty Genovese murder in New York City. He points out the indifference of the public to the plight of others in distress in the massive metropolis. Reviewers put it in the fifth position of his ten greatest songs.
4. “Love Me I’m A Liberal”
Rate Your Music rated “Love Me I’m A Liberal” as the fourth-best song of Phil Ochs’ career. They reprised the song with new lyrics in 2018 as a political statement during the Donald Trump administration. It’s still in circulation today.
3. “Draft Dodger Rag”
“Draft Dodger Rag” became a popular song with anti-war protestors in the 1960s. This is a satirical song that fans the embers and gets people worked up about things they don’t believe are right. It is a harsh criticism of the US military and the actions taken by the government during the Viet-Nam war era. It’s also applicable to recent events.
2. “Jim Dean of Indiana”
The Guardian lists “Jim Dean of Indiana” as the second-best song of Phil Ochs’ career. It’s a tribute to the late James Dean, who influenced Ochs as a person he admired. He discusses his adoration of Dean in the words of the song, then turns the focus on himself, comparing his life with that of James Dean.
1. ” When I’m Gone”
“When I’m Gone” is the most popular Phil Ochs song among his fans. He was an artist who was beloved for taking a stand about his beliefs. He left a legacy of music. The messages were sometimes subtle, but more often scathing. They served as commentaries about the political climate of the country. Ochs came from various points of view. He consistently referred to current social situations. The song has even more meaning in the wake of Ochs’ suicide. He left the songs behind to inspire people to stand up for their beliefs and to vocalize them publicly.