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SF Opening of Phil Ochs Documentary "There But For Fortune" @ Balboa w Director

Friday, March 18, 2011
7:15 PM - 9:15 PM
Event Type:
Location Details:
The Balboa Theater is located in San Francisco's Richmond District, at 3630 Balboa Street, between 37th and 38th Avenues

Friday 7:15 & 9:25 shows & Saturday 4:55 & 7:15 shows Director Kenneth Bowser in Person:

“There’s no place in this world where I’ll belong, when I’m gone, And I won’t know the right from the wrong, when I’m gone, And you won’t find me singin’ on this song, when I’m gone. So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here”
As our country continues to embroil itself in foreign wars and once again pins its hopes on a new leader’s promise for change, the feature length documentary, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is a timely tribute to an unlikely American hero. Phil Ochs, a folk singing legend, who many called “the emotional heart of his generation,” loved his country and he pursued its honor, in song and action, with a ferocity that had no regard for consequences. Wielding only a battered guitar, a clear voice and a quiver of razor sharp songs, he tirelessly fought the “good fight” for peace and justice throughout his short life.

Phil Ochs rose to fame in the early 1960’s during the height of the folk and protest song movement. His songs, with lyrics ripped straight from the daily news, spoke to those emboldened by the hopeful idealism of the day. Ochs himself believed to his core that he and his music could change the world for the better. From protesting the Vietnam War to supporting striking miners, from his attacks on sitting Presidents to mocking the politically disinterested, he struck at the heart of both the Right and Left wing political establishment with precisely targeted musical satire and righteous indignation.

As prolific as he was passionate, Ochs released seven acclaimed albums and wrote hundreds of songs in his career. His songs became anthems for the anti-war movement and still beautifully reflect the pain and the possibilities of those turbulent times. “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” is buoyed by these anthems and melodies – from humorous to haunting – and throughout the film play the role of narrator, giving contextual depth to the unfolding saga of Ochs’ complex political and personal life.

Possessed by the American fantasy and dream he saw projected on the Hollywood screen, Phil Ochs fought for the bright lights of fame and for social justice in equal measure. In the end it was this defining contradiction that would eventually tear him apart. While he never gained the widespread attention he so desperately wanted, his solo shows and his radical politics would generate the kind of controversy that only a true star could attract.

By 1968, the mood of the country had changed. With the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the events of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, all that seemed possible just a few years earlier began to fade and Phil Ochs took this hopelessness to heart as if the failings of the movement were his own. His mental and physical health declined as he sank deep into depression and alcoholism. He took his own life in 1976 at the age of 35.

By the time of his death the FBI had a dossier on him that was over 400 pages long. They would argue that he had no respect for government policies and stood against his country in a time of war. Weaving together photos, film clips, historic live performances and interviews with an array of people influenced by Ochs; from Sean Penn to Pete Seeger, Joan Baez to Tom Hayden, “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” paints a very different picture. We are able to understand that Ochs’ lasting legacy in both music and politics ultimately mirrored the complexities and contradictions of the country he loved -- and his life, sadly, reflects the arc of the times in which he lived.

“Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” reveals the biography of a conflicted truth seeking troubadour who, with a guitar in hand, stood up for what he believed in and challenged us all to do the same. Unyielding in his political principals and unbending in his artistic vision, Phil Ochs, though branded a traitor by his critics, was above all a fiercely patriotic American. This is his story.

In 1971, he, Jerry Rubin, and Stewart Albert visited Chile where a socialist government had been elected and many properties owned by American corporations had been nationalized. Ochs met and toured with the popular Chilean folk singer Victor Jara. They sang to the copper miners, students and farmers, and they appeared on a television show together. Ochs ran into David Ifshkin, a former President of the U.S. National Student Association, and remained in Chile with him while Rubin and Albert went to Peru. From Chile Ochs and Ifshkin went to Uruguay where they were promptly arrested and deported to Bolivia. There is an FBI memo dated 10/27/71 that starts in capital letters: "DAVID MICHAEL IFSHIN, SM – SUBVERSIVE." All five paragraphs are blacked out. At the bottom of the report it states: "Foreign Liaison Desk, La Paz" and in hand writing it says: "referred to State Department". Victor Jara was later killed in the Santiago stadium in front of thousands of his compatriots as he led them in song during the CIA-backed coup by the Chilean military in 1973. The crowd in the stands was sprayed with machine gun fire to silence their rebel songs. Ochs took this political event very personally and he was deeply shaken and depressed by it. He was struck by the contrast between the utter horror of the coup and the oblivious routine of everyday life in America. (Note: This sentiment is exhibited in the Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Me song.)

Ochs took a trip to several African countries in 1973. (Note: There are rare recordings of Phil Ochs singing with African groups during this voyage.) One evening, while strolling alone on the beach in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, three muggers beat him savagely and left him unconscious. Was there any political motive behind this? The attackers ruptured his vocal cords and caused some permanent damage to his singing ability.

7 Aug 2009, 00:28

Phil Ochs had about 70 songs published in the 1960's and 1970's in Broadside, the National Topical Song Magazine, published in New York City by Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen. Vic Sadot met and interviewed Phil Ochs in May of 1973 as the Watergate scandal was beginning to take its toll on the Nixon administration. In 1982 Vic Sadot was asked by the aging and ailing Gordon Friesen to write an article in review of the more than 400 pages of FBI files that were released to him under the Freedom of Information Act. The article was published in Broadside magazine and in the Delaware Alternative Press in 1982.

I flew the final mission in the Japanese skies
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw those cities burnin'
I knew that I was learnin' that I ain't a'marchin' anymore!
I Ain't Marching Anymore - Phil Ochs 1940 - 1976
I Ain't Marching Anymore

Phil Ochs' FBI File
By Vic Sadot

Added to the calendar on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 10:50PM
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