I always thought Phil Ochs was your basic regular-guy-folk-music-icon until reading a few articles about the man. I’ve learned that Phil Ochs was anything but regular.
As a boy, Ochs enjoyed going to the movies. His favorite heroes were James Dean and John Wayne. Always a dreamer, Ochs fantasized about becoming a stoic cowboy like John Wayne, a teenage rebel like James Dean, or a rockabilly sex symbol like Elvis Presley. He took his early love of Hollywood to New York where he became one of the most celebrated folk singers in the world. He surfaced in Greenwich Village where he wrote songs so profusely that friendly rival Bob Dylan complained that he couldn’t keep up with him. At the same time, Ochs became a social activist leading protests against the Vietnam War with songs like “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore.”
Recognition came too late for Phil Ochs. He suffered from undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder. Ochs committed suicide in 1976 thinking himself a failure.
His song “Changes” is a soft philosophical ballad exploring the transient nature of human life. Everything changes, including our relationships, the seasons, our ages, and our circumstances. Through it all, Ochs believed we have an obligation to make a meaningful contribution to life. Ochs left behind his beautiful music and deeply held beliefs.
Here is my cover of “Changes.”