Van Dyke Parks: The thing about Phil that made him interesting was he was totally unequivocal. He was determined, precise, literate, but already filled with rage and political purpose in his songs.
Phil Ochs: [singing] He slowly squeezed the trigger, the bullet left his side. It struck the heart of every man when Evers fell and died. Too many martyrs and too many dead...
Dave Van Ronk: Topical song movement evolved out of opposition to segregation, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement, in general, subsequently the Vietnam War. Without those howling injustices and outrages, there would have been no protest song movement. Probably there would have been no folk song movement.
Phil Ochs: [singing] And then there came the boycotts and then the Freedom Rides. And forgetting what you stood for, you tried to block the tide. Oh, the automation bosses were laughing on the side, as they watched you lose your link on the chain, on the chain, as they watched you lose your link on the chain.
Michael Ochs: Phil would play anywhere. There were the club things. There’d be a multi-artist thing. You’d hear about all these causes that needed help. He would go to the South and do civil rights things.
Phil Ochs: [singing] If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find. Oh, the calendar is lying when it reads the present time. Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of. Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of.
Michael Ochs: It was a great way to reach people through one’s music. Phil would actually turn down a commercial job for a benefit, because the benefit would usually reach more people.
Abbie Hoffman: No matter how small a group or big the group, whenever anybody asked, I can never remember him turning down anybody, any benefit, any chance to sing for a cause he believed in. He really—Phil Ochs was there.
Lucian Truscot IV: Those guys were true believers. Those guys would show up, you know, for the opening of an envelope to give $10 to some guy that was handing out crackers on the Bowery, to sing a song for the cracker-hander-outter guy.
Arthur Gorson: Phil went down to Hazard, Kentucky, because there was a miners’ strike.
Phil Ochs: [singing] Well, some people think that unions are too strong, union leaders should go back where they belong.
Arthur Gorson: We got to sleep in bathtubs, so that when they came and shot up the rooms at night, you wouldn’t have bullets bouncing off. And it was cool.
Phil Ochs: [singing] Well, mining is a hazard in Hazard, Kentucky, and if you ain’t mining there, you’re awful lucky, because if you don’t get silicosis or a pay that’s just atrocious, you’ll be screaming for a union that will care.
Arthur Gorson: There was sort of a very kind of practical moral politics that had to do with a sincere feeling that people should be treated equally.
Phil Ochs: [singing] But if you want to get together and fight, good buddy, that’s what I want to hear.
- An excerpt from Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune taken from a DemocracyNow! interview with
Kenneth Bowser, the director, and Michael Ochs, the produce and brother of Phil Ochs.