I’m Gonna Say It Now: The Writings of Phil Ochs

Backbeat: Rowman & Littlefield. Dec. 2020. 280p. ed. by ed. by David Cohen. ISBN 9781493051472. $27.95. MUSIC
Singer-songwriter Ochs (1940–76), whose protest songs addressed civil rights, war, capital punishment, and police brutality, was once seen as a legitimate rival to Bob Dylan. Cohen (Phil Ochs: A Bio-Bibliography) gathers a wide-ranging collection of Ochs’s writings, including contributions to student publications at the Staunton Military Academy and Ohio State University; reviews in Broadside, Sing-Out, and other popular music journals; and articles in alternative press outlets such as the Village Voice and the Los Angeles Free Press. Ochs’s political pieces often deal with the same issues found in his protest songs. Cohen organizes the material under several rubrics, chronologically, geographically, and by genre. One group of articles documents the exciting history of the 1960s New York folk scene, with portraits of emerging new talents, including Hamilton Camp, David Blue, Eric Andersen, and Buffy Sainte Marie; another, devoted to Ochs’s writings in Los Angeles, contains liner notes for several albums, some satire, and film-related articles, including “Requiem for a Dragon Departed,” an intriguing obituary on Bruce Lee. The poetry section features 22 poems, most unpublished heretofore.
VERDICT Ochs’s work remains relevant today, and this book will appeal to his loyal fans and to readers interested in folk music’s role in promoting justice.
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