October 20th, 2011
Phil Ochs: There But For The Fortune by Kenneth Bowser
There’s no place in this world where I’ll belong, when I’m gone, And I won’t know the right from the wrong, when I’m gone, And you won’t find me singin’ on this song, when I’m gone. So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here
As the United States continues to embroil itself in foreign wars and once again pins its hopes on a new leader’s promise for change, the feature length documentary, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is a timely tribute to an unlikely American hero. Phil Ochs, a folk singing legend, who many called “the emotional heart of his generation,” loved his country and he pursued its honor, in song and action, with a ferocity that had no regard for consequences. Wielding only a battered guitar, a clear voice and a quiver of razor sharp songs, he tirelessly fought the “good fight” for peace and justice throughout his short life. More »
Phil Ochs rose to fame in the early 1960’s during the height of the folk and protest song movement. His songs, with lyrics ripped straight from the daily news, spoke to those emboldened by the hopeful idealism of the day. Ochs himself believed to his core that he and his music could change the world for the better. From protesting the Vietnam War to supporting striking miners, from his attacks on sitting Presidents to mocking the politically disinterested, he struck at the heart of both the Right and Left wing political establishment with precisely targeted musical satire and righteous indignation.
As prolific as he was passionate, Ochs released seven acclaimed albums and wrote hundreds of songs in his career. His songs became anthems for the anti-war movement and still beautifully reflect the pain and the possibilities of those turbulent times. Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is buoyed by these anthems and melodies—from humorous to haunting—and throughout the film play the role of narrator, giving contextual depth to the unfolding saga of Ochs’ complex political and personal life.
Possessed by the American fantasy and dream he saw projected on the Hollywood screen, Phil Ochs fought for the bright lights of fame and for social justice in equal measure. In the end it was this defining contradiction that would eventually tear him apart. While he never gained the widespread attention he so desperately wanted, his solo shows and his radical politics would generate the kind of controversy that only a true star could attract.
By 1968, the mood of the country had changed. With the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the events of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, all that seemed possible just a few years earlier began to fade and Phil Ochs took this hopelessness to heart as if the failings of the movement were his own. His mental and physical health declined as he sank deep into depression and alcoholism. He took his own life in 1976 at the age of 35.
By the time of his death the FBI had a dossier on him that was over 400 pages long. They would argue that he had no respect for government policies and stood against his country in a time of war. Weaving together photos, film clips, historic live performances and interviews with an array of people influenced by Ochs; from Sean Penn to Pete Seeger, Joan Baez to Tom Hayden, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune paints a very different picture. We are able to understand that Ochs’ lasting legacy in both music and politics ultimately mirrored the complexities and contradictions of the country he loved—and his life, sadly, reflects the arc of the times in which he lived.
Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune reveals the biography of a conflicted truth seeking troubadour who, with a guitar in hand, stood up for what he believed in and challenged us all to do the same. Unyielding in his political principals and unbending in his artistic vision, Phil Ochs, though branded a traitor by his critics, was above all a fiercely patriotic American. This is his story.
Bruce Cockburn—Striking A Green Chord by Joan Prowse
We as a species are killing our habitat.
And that’s just plain dumb.
Can music affect social change? There is no doubt that music has the ability to effect us emotionally, make us think and see the world differently and that musicians have the power to change the world for the better with the broad platform they possess in their fan-base.
In 1988 he released the song If a Tree Falls and it became a hit—bringing a great deal of attention to deforestation and other environmental issues. Since then, Bruce has never stopped singing in support of habitat preservation.
Ottawa born Bruce Cockburn is the winner of 13 Juno Awards, an Officer of the Order of Canada and has more than 30 albums under his belt. However, he is also a long-time, outspoken advocate for the environment and unafraid to publicly tackle difficult political questions. More »
He is committed to raising ecological and social awareness; Bruce is the honorary chairperson of Friends of the Earth and a supporter of the Unitarian Service Committee, he performed at a UNICEF concert in Kosovo, and was a spokesperson for the movement to ban land mines. In 2005 he performed his well-known “If A Tree Falls” at the UN Summit for Climate Control in Montreal.
Indeed, Bruce was one of the earlier mainstream voices to speak about the destruction of our natural resources and he did so with the conviction that he was speaking for many others who shared his concern. When asked about why he chose his music as the forum from which to encourage others to think about the human connection to our environment, he explained:
I don’t think music can bring about social change by itself. I think it can be a crystallizing agent for waves of feeling that move through all of us.
- Music by Bruce Cockburn and courtesy of Finkelstein Management
- Music video courtesy of True North Records
Two Men From Earth & Special Guests Concert
“Two Men From Earth” are John Dickie (vocals/guitar/mandolin/harmonica) and Steve Hunter. (piano/vocals) In 2009 they released a roots CD called “Walking To New Orleans;” unique takes on blues & boogie standards such as “Careless Love” and “It’ll Be Me,” a rockin’ Jerry Lee Lewis tune. Usually playing as a duo, now and again they add a drummer, Paul Armstrong, to give the groove an extra ‘kick.’ Between them, they have worked with international stars The Neville Brothers, James Cotton and Etta James; locally with Jeff Healey, Sylvia Tyson, Willie P Bennett, Mondo Combo, The Cameo Blues Band and Jack DeKeyser.
Steve Hunter has been playing professionally since 1977; John Dickie since 1965, and he also worked in radio for 17years Q-107 & CFRB. John and Steve’s knowledge of music is impressive, ranging from folk to blues/R&B and everything in between. More »
On Thursday October 20th “Two Men From Earth” will be doing a special tribute concert to Phil Ochs with Paul Armstrong joining them on the drums. They will be joined by special guests singer/songwriter Barry Cull and vocalist Lexy Smith-Doughty.
Howard Doughty Guest Speaker
The story may be apocryphal, but legend has it that Phil Ochs gave the words to Changes, his most intimate personal song, to Gordon Lightfoot one night at the Riverboat coffee house in Yorkville, and Lightfoot was the first to sing it in public. What’s not in dispute is that the audience reception was ecstatic and the song was included in Lightfoot’s first album. Others who covered Ochs’ work include Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger as well as Cher, John Denver and scores of others.
Phil Ochs was at the centre of the “protest songs” of the sixties, and arguably the best and most popular of the broadside balladeers. Most of Ochs’ work was topical and political. His sometime friend Bob Dylan, once tried to insult him by claiming that Ochs wasn’t a poet, he was a journalist. In fact, he was both. Phil Ochs’ death in 1976 marked the termination of those tumultuous times. More »
Howard Doughty is a political economist who has taught in colleges and universities in Canada and the United States. His connection to Phil Ochs began when they met in 1964 and continued on for a decade. He has published articles on Ochs in scholarly journals and in the popular press, and has spoken to academic and other audiences about the art and life of Phil Ochs from the viewpoint of one of his biggest fans.
Lexy Smith-Doughty Musical Guest
Born and raised in Richmond Hill, Lexy has been leading at least three lives. An award- winning dancer and pianist, she is a self-taught singer-songwriter and guitarist. She has also been testing political waters as a campus leader at the University of Western Ontario, where she was a graduate of the Faculty of Health Sciences. During her time at Western, she was a regular performer at the London Music Club. She is currently an MPH candidate at the University of Toronto, and still attempts to utilize her love of music and the arts to aid in activism throughout the community.
Barry Cull Musical Guest
Barry was born in Birmingham UK and grew up in Toronto. He learned to play the guitar and started singing folk music in the 60’s and 70’s. Barry was a frequent guest at the Fiddler’s Green folk club in Toronto. The topical song writers Ewan MacColl, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan and of course Phil Ochs were some of his early influences. He has played in a couple of bands, and in the 90’s was lead singer and rhythm guitarist for a cover rock band—Fat Old White Guys. Most recently, he has joined the Kitchener-Waterloo Folk Society and makes regular appearances at the Black Walnut folk club, and the Old Chestnut Song Circle in Kitchener, and Delainey’s Tavern in Fergus, Ontario.
While music is a passion of his, he makes his way in the world teaching psychology at Conestoga College in Kitchener. In his spare time he is Chair of the board for Supportive Housing of Waterloo, a project that provides permanent housing for people who have experienced persistent homelessness.