Phil Ochs was a man before his time. He was also a man of his time. Ultimately, though, time was simply something Phil Ochs ran out of.
He wanted to be Che Guevara, he wanted to be Elvis Presley, he would have settled for being Bob Dylan. One thing he could never do was just be happy being Phil Ochs.
When people talk about the 60s, and what the decade did to change the world, Phil is rarely even so much as a footnote to an era in which he contributed so much to the changes that went on that it ended up killing him.
In a time when the term “Liberal” was used as much as an insult as a compliment, Phil went far beyond the 10 degrees left of center that Liberals liked to believed they occupied, and never once took a single step towards the 10 degrees right of center where they always ended up.
Beligerently uncompromising, Phil desperately tried to make the world a better place long after most had given up on the cause. That those who held the power to effect change chose not to exiled Phil to a place from which he would never return.
On April 9th 1976, consumed with self doubt and despair at the world he so desperately wanted more for, Phil Ochs hanged himself at the age of 35.
Without even a hint of irony, the media reported his death far more readily than they ever did his life. The FBI continued to believe Phil Ochs a threat to the President long after he stopped being a threat even to himself, confirming Phil’s long held belief that they were monitoring his every move.
Had Phil known the impact his legacy would have, even 40 years after his death, perhaps he’d have given himself another chance. We’ll never know.
God help the troubadour who tries to be star.