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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Phil Ochs Highlighted in Smithsonian Folkways Collection

I subscribe to “No More Songs”, a wonderful Phil Ochs memorabilia tribute web site that has an email discussion list. The current email from “No More Songs” features an article about the Folkways Collection, which is now housed at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. The Spring/Summer 2013 cover story at Smithsonian Folkways on-line has an article by Ronald D Cohen titled “PeaceSongs of the 1960's”. It gives well-deserved recognition to Phil Ochs. Hit the photo to link to the story!

Attention Phil Ochs fans! An interactive web site has been created called No More Songs: A Phil Ochs Collection. No More Songs features a number of free downloads of songs, photos, articles, and interviews. Vic Sadot and Rich Lang interview of Phil Ochs from May 1973 is a free download there under "Phil" and his 2005 full band release of the song is a free download under "Tribute Songs to Phil Ochs"!

The “Peace Songs of the 1960's” article features an interview with Pete Seeger about his peace songs; a slide show of anti-war photos that has several of a very young Phil Ochs playing at Broadside concerts; and there are links to the various Folkways albums that are fortunately being preserved and celebrated as part of American culture. For example, there is a link to “The Best of Broadside 1962-1988: Anthems of the American Underground from the Pages of Broadside Magazine”.

Peace Songs of the 1960s” by Ronald D. Cohen on the Smithsonian Folkways Collection: “Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen launched “Broadside: The National Topical Song Magazine” in 1962, which soon featured numerous peace songs. The third issue included Bob Dylan’s “I Will Not Go Down Under the Ground,” referring to bomb shelters, and was recorded by Happy Traum, backed by Dylan, for the album Broadside Ballads Vol. 1 (1963). Potential devastation from atomic weapons, rather than the looming Vietnam War, mostly occupied the minds of songwriters at this point. Dylan’s creative and powerful songs caught the imaginations of a growing number of performers and fans, although their political messages were often oblique. His 1963 “Go Away You Bomb,” however, while unknown at the time, was more direct. Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” appeared on the cover ofBroadside #6, in May 1962, with its rather abstract, convoluted peace message. His 1963 Columbia album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan included not only “Blowin’ in the Wind” but also more pointed peace songs, such as“Masters of War” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Dylan would soon stray from writing about peace, but would quickly be replaced by the prolific Phil Ochs, who had arrived in New York from Ohio and quickly joined the Broadside collective. The October 1962 issue opened with Ochs’s critical “Vietnam,” an early indication that things were definitely heating up in Southeast Asia, despite President John F. Kennedy’s disclaimers. In addition to publishing topical songs, with the assistance of Folkways Records’ Moses Asch, Broadside issued the first of its Broadside Ballads albums in 1963, which included Matt McGinn’s “Go Limp” (a.k.a. “The Young CND”), about the British antinuclear movement, Mark Spoelstra’s “The Civil Defense Sign,” and Dylan’s “Let Me Die In My Footsteps.” During the Newport Folk Festival in July 1964 Ochs performed his hard hitting “Draft Dodger Rag” as well as “Talking Vietnam Blues.” This essay is drawn from Study War No More: Peace Songs in American History, 1900-1970 (East Windsor, NJ: CAMSCO Music, forthcoming).

Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen photo at Smithsonian Folkways

I met and interviewed Phil Ochs in May 1973, and these days that interview is a free download at “No More Songs”. That interview is available for free under “Phil” in the Downloads section at

In 1976 in a spell of deep depression, Phil committed suicide at the home of his sister Sonny Ochs in Far Rockaway, New York. Sometime in 1977 I wrote a tribute song to Phil titled "Broadside Balladeer" because he had over 70 songs published in the pages of Broadside Magazine,  which has been archived on line. The tribute was recorded with the Crazy Planet Band in 1985. But it was not released until 2005 on a "Best of Vic Sadot Songs" CD titled "Broadsides & Retrospectives", which is also available at CD Baby. 

My brother Joe Sadot and I had some songs published in Broadside Magazine. I got to know Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen during a few years of visits to Greenwich Village and to their apartment. In the later years of Broadside I was a editor/writer. In 1982 Gordon Friesen asked me to review and write an article about the more than 400 pages of FBI files that Gordon had obtained through the Freedom of Information Act after Phil's death by suicide in 1976.
PHIL OCHS FBI FILE 1982 article was re-published at the Official Vic Sadot Website in 2011.

Photo from Sept 1987 Broadside Magazine: Sis Cunningham and Vic Sadot

I was delighted to see Sis Cunningham featured in an "Artist Spotlight” at Smithsonian Folkways along with her “Sundown” LP preserved for listening on line at the Smithsonian Folkways site! 

Free SoundCloud mp3 of the 2011 acoustic version of Vic Sadot's tribute song to Phil Ochs, Broadside Balladeer, recorded with Eric Golub on violin for the “9/11 Truth & Justice Songs” CD released on the 10th anniversary of the event on 9/11/11.

YouTube Video by Dean A. Banks for 
Vic Sadot's Crazy Planet Band 2005 release of Broadside Balladeer

Discover lots of Phil Ochs songs at LastFM Interactive Radio website:

Note: Blues folk singer Lucinda Williams, who is still going strong, had her first two albums released on Folkways in 1979 and 1981 and some of her early songs were published in Broadside Magazine. 

The official website of Vic Sadot is