I Ain't Marching Anymore
REVIEW BY: David Bowling
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/02/2007
At one time, Phil Ochs mattered. During the early to mid-60s, he was considered equal to Bob Dylan by many folk music aficionados. Today he is a forgotten man.
During the 1960s, Dylan was an introspective folk poet. His songs would challenge the listener without overtly becoming a threat. Phil Ochs wrote from his anger and would try to bludgeon the listener into submission. There was no compromise in the soul -- you listened, you agreed, or else.
I Ain’t Marching Anymore represents the legacy of Ochs well. It not only presents an excellent snapshot of his music but also of the social issues of the day.
“In The Heat Of The Summer” examines the Harlem riots of 1965 and the response by the authorities. “Draft Dodger Rag” is probably the man's best known song. It is an early and sarcastic rant against the United States' increasing involvement in Vietnam.
“Iron Lady” is about the inhumanity of the electric chair and the execution of Carl Chessman. “Days Of Decision” is a devastating anti-politician song and “The State Of Mississippi” is a rant against racism. Ochs was banned from performing in Mississippi as a result of this song.
“Hills Of West Virginia” provides a rare glimpse into the heart of Phil Ochs. It is a simple song about a trip through the state. “The Highwayman” is one of the most brilliant songs to come out of the folk movement; Ochs adapts the Alfred Noyes poem to the folk idiom and weaves a story of life and love lost.
I Ain’t Marching Anymore with its 14 songs is a starter course about protest music. This was an important album for its time, as it represented a part of the fabric of this country. Yet 40 years later, I Ain’t Marching Anymore remains frozen in time and only hints at the effectiveness of Phil Ochs' personal protests.
Ochs produced no studio albums after 1970. His increasingly bizarre behavior, which included dressing up in a gold lame suit and singing Elvis songs at his concerts, ended with his suicide in 1976.
I Ain’t Marching Anymore remains a testament to a musician who never compromised and took chances and above all cared and mattered at an important time in United States history.