Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 19, 2007 - Fokl*, etc. (for Folk*)

Whether you called it "folk music" or "protest music," it actually wasn't a whole lot hipper forty years ago than it is today, especially for those folk for whom the medium is cooler than the message. Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs (born on this day in 1940) started out in the clubs of Greenwich Village as friendly rivals and peace-loving peers, but Dylan soon disavowed the folkie taint, after taunting Ochs one time during an argument: "You're not a folksinger, you're a journalist." (Phil, who had majored in journalism at Ohio State, probably didn't take it too amiss since he tended to regard the music primarily as a tool for the exchange of ideas and cheerfully admitted his songs were mostly based on articles he read in Newsweek.) Since Ochs's death in 1976, he's been widely regarded as perhaps the greatest folksinger-songwriter the world has ever known, and, even back in the day, was implicitly, if grudgingly, accorded that honor by Dylan himself, who once said: "I just can't keep up with Phil. And he's getting better and better and better." If you're in the mood to snicker at the worst "folk music" had to offer, I suggest you check out the riotously funny satire A Mighty Wind, but if you're of a mind to revisit the politics of the sixties by way of transcendent musical and lyrical virtuosity, spin an old Phil Ochs platter. And if you simply want to make sure that folks find what they're searching for, then check your catalog for the following typos: Folkor ("high probability" on the Ballard list), Foklor* ("moderate"), Floklo* ("low"), and Floks ("lowest"). (Photo of Phil Ochs from the Notable Names Database.)

Carol Reid

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