72 Facts About Phil Ochs


Philip David Ochs was an American songwriter and protest singer.


Phil Ochs wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums.


Phil Ochs performed at many political events during the 1960s counterculture era, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City's Town Hall and Carnegie Hall.


Politically, Phil Ochs described himself as a "left social democrat" who became an "early revolutionary" after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot, which had a profound effect on his state of mind.


Phil Ochs had a number of personal problems, including bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and died by suicide in 1976.


Phil Ochs's influences included Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, and Merle Haggard.


Phil Ochs was born on December 19,1940, in El Paso, Texas, to Jacob "Jack" Ochs, a physician who was born in New York, and Gertrude Phin Ochs, who was from Scotland.


Phil Ochs's parents met and married in Edinburgh where Jack was attending medical school.


The Phil Ochs family was middle class and Jewish, but not religious.


Phil Ochs's father was distant from his wife and children, and was hospitalized for depression; he died on April 30,1963, from a cerebral hemorrhage.


Phil Ochs's mother did not want to hire a babysitter and instead gave her sons money to spend at the theatre.


Phil Ochs especially liked big screen heroes such as John Wayne and Audie Murphy.


From 1956 to 1958, Phil Ochs was a student at the Staunton Military Academy in rural Virginia, and when he graduated he returned to Columbus and enrolled at Ohio State University.


Phil Ochs returned to Ohio State to study journalism and developed an interest in politics, with a particular interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959.


Phil Ochs was the opening act for a number of musicians in the summer of 1961, including the Smothers Brothers.


Phil Ochs met folksinger Bob Gibson that summer as well, and according to Dave Van Ronk, Gibson became "the seminal influence" on Phil Ochs's writing.


Phil Ochs continued at Ohio State into his senior year, but was bitterly disappointed at not being appointed editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, and dropped out in his last quarter without graduating.


Phil Ochs left for New York, as Glover had, to become a folksinger.


Phil Ochs arrived in New York City in 1962 and began performing in numerous small folk nightclubs, eventually becoming an integral part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene.


Phil Ochs emerged as an unpolished but passionate vocalist who wrote pointed songs about current events: war, civil rights, labor struggles and other topics.


Phil Ochs described himself as a "singing journalist", saying he built his songs from stories he read in Newsweek.


In 1963, Phil Ochs performed at New York's Carnegie Hall and Town Hall in hootenannies.


Phil Ochs made his first solo appearance at Carnegie Hall in 1966.


Phil Ochs contributed many songs and articles to the influential Broadside Magazine.


In 1962, Phil Ochs married Alice Skinner, who was pregnant with their daughter Meegan, in a City Hall ceremony with Jim Glover as best man and Jean Ray as bridesmaid, and witnessed by Dylan's sometime girlfriend, Suze Rotolo.


Phil Ochs told his wife that he thought he was going to die that night.


None of Phil Ochs's songs became hits, although "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" received a good deal of airplay.


Phil Ochs was profoundly concerned with the escalation of the Vietnam War, performing tirelessly at anti-war rallies across the country.


Phil Ochs was disappointed and bitter when his onetime hero John Wayne embraced the Vietnam War with what Ochs saw as the blind patriotism of Wayne's 1968 film, The Green Berets:.


Phil Ochs was involved in the creation of the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies, along with Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Stew Albert, and Paul Krassner.


Still, Phil Ochs helped plan the Yippies' "Festival of Life" which was to take place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention along with demonstrations by other anti-war groups including the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.


Phil Ochs performed in Lincoln Park, Grant Park, and at the Chicago Coliseum, witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Chicago police against the protesters, and was himself arrested at one point.


Phil Ochs purchased the young boar who became known as the Yippie 1968 Presidential candidate "Pigasus the Immortal" from a farm in Illinois.


At the trial of the Chicago Seven in December 1969, Phil Ochs testified for the defense.


On his way out of the courthouse, Phil Ochs sang the song for the press corps; to Phil Ochs's amusement, his singing was broadcast that evening by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.


Phil Ochs thought that by playing the sort of music that had moved him as a teenager he could speak more directly to the American public.


Phil Ochs turned to his musical roots in country music and early rock and roll.


Phil Ochs decided he needed to be "part Elvis Presley and part Che Guevara", so he commissioned a gold lame suit from Elvis Presley's costumer Nudie Cohn.


Phil Ochs wore the gold suit on the cover of his 1970 album, Greatest Hits, which consisted of new songs largely in rock and country styles.


Phil Ochs went on tour wearing the gold suit, backed by a rock band, singing his own material along with medleys of songs by Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Merle Haggard.


Phil Ochs had been taking Valium for years to help control his nerves, and he was drinking heavily.


Phil Ochs was drinking a lot of wine and taking uppers.


Depressed by his lack of widespread appreciation and suffering from writer's block, Phil Ochs did not record any further albums.


Phil Ochs was having difficulties writing new songs during this period, but he had occasional breakthroughs.


Phil Ochs was personally invited by John Lennon to sing at a large benefit at the University of Michigan in December 1971 on behalf of John Sinclair, an activist poet who had been arrested on minor drug charges and given a severe sentence.


Phil Ochs performed at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally along with Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg, David Peel, Abbie Hoffman, and many others.


In 1972, Phil Ochs was asked to write the theme song for the film Kansas City Bomber.


The task proved difficult, as Phil Ochs struggled to overcome his writer's block.


Phil Ochs traveled to Africa in 1973, where he visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa.


One night, Phil Ochs was attacked and strangled by robbers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which damaged his vocal cords, causing a loss of the top three notes in his vocal range.


When Phil Ochs heard about the manner in which his friend had been killed, he was outraged and decided to organize a benefit concert to bring to public attention the situation in Chile, and raise funds for the people of Chile.


Phil Ochs' drinking became more and more of a problem, and his behavior became increasingly erratic.


In mid-1975, Phil Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train.


Phil Ochs told people that Train had murdered Ochs and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him.


Phil Ochs was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon at all times: a hammer, a knife, or a lead pipe.


In January 1976, Phil Ochs moved to Far Rockaway, New York, to live with his sister Sonny.


Phil Ochs was lethargic; his only activities were watching television and playing cards with his nephews.


Phil Ochs was prescribed medication, and he told his sister he was taking it.


Almost fifty years after his death, Phil Ochs's songs remain relevant.


Phil Ochs continues to influence singers and fans worldwide, most of whom never saw him perform live.


Alice Skinner Phil Ochs was a photographer; she died in November 2010.


In September 2014, Meegan Lee Phil Ochs announced that she was donating her father's archives to the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


In 2005, Kind Of Like Spitting released an album, Learn: The Songs of Phil Ochs, consisting of covers of nine songs written by Ochs, to pay tribute to his music and raise awareness of the artist, whom they felt had been overlooked.


Phil Ochs was always really good no matter what he was doing.


In 2020, Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph released Days Of Decision: A Tribute to Phil Ochs containing 14 Ochs covers, as well as liner notes by Ochs' sister, Sonny.


Singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith wrote a song about Phil Ochs entitled "Radio Fragile", included in her album Storms.


Phil Ochs has influenced Greek folk-rock songwriters; Dimitris Panagopoulos' Astathis Isoropia was dedicated to his memory.


Phil Ochs is mentioned in the song "The Day" from the self titled They Might Be Giants album.


Phil Ochs is mentioned in the Stephen King novels The Tommyknockers and Hearts in Atlantis.


Phil Ochs is mentioned in David Bowie's 2013 song " Set the World on Fire" on The Next Day album.


The film included interviews with people who had known Phil Ochs, including Yippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, manager Harold Leventhal, and Mike Porco, the owner of Gerde's Folk City.


Experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon named his 2007 experimental film Rehearsals for Retirement after Ochs' 1969 song of the same name.