American Masters (1985– )
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Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune 

The life of activist and singer-songwriter Phil Ochs.

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Tom Hayden ...
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Phil Ochs ...
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The life of activist and singer-songwriter Phil Ochs.

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23 January 2012 (USA)  »

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"Phil Ochs inspires us still"
8 March 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This profile of a folk-music icon is also a reminder that some things just don't change -- both mental illness and the world at large can present lethal dangers.

The Texas-born singer had a golden voice, and this entry in this venerable documentary series quotes a series of more famous balladeers, from Joan Baez to Pete Seeger, on Ochs's formidable talent.

"Phil stood out. He always had this tremendous curiosity...a torrent of questions..."

Ochs was an early world-music pioneer who played with fellow performers in such places as Chile and Africa. We learn here about the tragic torture and murder of his friend, the Chilean protest singer Victor Jara, and about the time that Ochs was jumped, strangled, and left for dead in Africa -- in an attack the singer came to believe was instigated by the CIA.

Ochs's battles with alcohol and apparent manic-depressive disorder eventually took him down when he hung himself in 1976, at age 35.

This segment skims over Ochs's family of origin and romantic life but provides lots of music and historical references from the Sixties and Seventies. The episode is a reminder of how little our often cruel and volatile world has evolved.

This segment ends on a transcendent note, with an a cappella tribute to Ochs from latter-day protest singer Billy Bragg. Sublime!


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