Friday, March 04, 2011

"Triumph and Tragedy"


The short and tragic life of Phil Ochs is as involving as the music he wrote and played, and that is saying a great deal.

If you remember the 1960s, you more than likely remember the singer-songwriter who composed hundreds of songs, many of them, as can be heard on the strong and forceful documentary "Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune," beautiful and melodic as well as pointedly political.

It was Ochs who wrote "I Ain't Marching Anymore," sometimes called the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement. He wrote the song, memorably covered by Joan Baez, which gives the film, "Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune," its subtitle. He wrote "Small Circle of Friends," "When I'm Gone," "Talking Vietnam" and others.

But though his songs railed against society's unfairness and could be, as fellow musician Van Dyke Parks puts it, "filled with rage," his life was not one-dimensional and certainly not simple. As directed by Kenneth Bowser, "Phil Ochs" takes us to the darker side of the singer-songwriter movement, to situations and personalities that led to Ochs committing suicide in 1976 at the terribly young age of 35.

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