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Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs

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This controversial biography has become a primary reference on the life & times of Phil Ochs, student activist, journalist, 60s rebel, social commentator, street socialist, poet, pop star & disturbed child of an America gone war & assassination-crazy. Altho his recordings were never bestsellers & there were times when he was more greatly appreciated in the UK, Canada & the This controversial biography has become a primary reference on the life & times of Phil Ochs, student activist, journalist, 60s rebel, social commentator, street socialist, poet, pop star & disturbed child of an America gone war & assassination-crazy. Altho his recordings were never bestsellers & there were times when he was more greatly appreciated in the UK, Canada & the 3rd World than at home, the late Philip David Ochs was one of the few American folksingers, aside from Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan, who wrote & performed his own songs. This singing journalist's earliest ballads--championing civil rights, pacifism & revolution, attacking unemployment & US foreign policy--dealt with the romance of politics. Later ones celebrated the politics of romance. Fascinated by night, death, drowning, James Dean & Elvis Presley, Ochs was only 36 when, after surviving an attack in Africa followed by a psychotic break, he hanged himself in 1976. Eliot's sympathetic, powerful biography 1st appeared in paperback in 1979. Newer editions contain an epilog that updates information on Ochs's family & friends, discusses the FBI's 13-year surveillance of him & offers a revised discography.


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This controversial biography has become a primary reference on the life & times of Phil Ochs, student activist, journalist, 60s rebel, social commentator, street socialist, poet, pop star & disturbed child of an America gone war & assassination-crazy. Altho his recordings were never bestsellers & there were times when he was more greatly appreciated in the UK, Canada & the This controversial biography has become a primary reference on the life & times of Phil Ochs, student activist, journalist, 60s rebel, social commentator, street socialist, poet, pop star & disturbed child of an America gone war & assassination-crazy. Altho his recordings were never bestsellers & there were times when he was more greatly appreciated in the UK, Canada & the 3rd World than at home, the late Philip David Ochs was one of the few American folksingers, aside from Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan, who wrote & performed his own songs. This singing journalist's earliest ballads--championing civil rights, pacifism & revolution, attacking unemployment & US foreign policy--dealt with the romance of politics. Later ones celebrated the politics of romance. Fascinated by night, death, drowning, James Dean & Elvis Presley, Ochs was only 36 when, after surviving an attack in Africa followed by a psychotic break, he hanged himself in 1976. Eliot's sympathetic, powerful biography 1st appeared in paperback in 1979. Newer editions contain an epilog that updates information on Ochs's family & friends, discusses the FBI's 13-year surveillance of him & offers a revised discography.

30 review for Death of a Rebel: A Biography of Phil Ochs

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Two substantial biographies have been published about the life of Phil Ochs, this being the earlier, but it was revised and updated in a subsequent 1989 edition. I was introduced to the music and lyrics of Ochs by my father and WFMT's "Midnight Special" program in the early sixties. Making my first true friends in high school, I found a community which included others familiar with that program and with Ochs and his associates from NY's Greenwich Village and later Chicago's Gate of Horn days: Dav Two substantial biographies have been published about the life of Phil Ochs, this being the earlier, but it was revised and updated in a subsequent 1989 edition. I was introduced to the music and lyrics of Ochs by my father and WFMT's "Midnight Special" program in the early sixties. Making my first true friends in high school, I found a community which included others familiar with that program and with Ochs and his associates from NY's Greenwich Village and later Chicago's Gate of Horn days: Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Odetta, Jim and Jean, Tom Paxton, Eric Anderson etc. I liked them all, but I respected Ochs the most because of his continuing, courageous political commitments. As he sang of Woody Guthrie: "Oh, he sang on our streets/And he sang in our halls,/And he was always there when the unions gave a call." Phil was famously generous with his time, a regular and unpaid presence at antiwar demonstrations. By the end of high school I'd seen him play thrice: twice at the University of Chicago and at least once in Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention when he'd joined us after a bloody night in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel. In college, in 1972, I saw him once more and even spoke briefly with him after a small rally for Eugene McCarthy's abortive second bid for the White House. Like myself, a McCarthy supporter and a democratic socialist, Phil was torn between the hope of reform and the rage of the radical. In 1976, while I was in seminary in New York, I learned of his suicide an attended the memorial concert for him at the Felt Forum in downtown Manhattan where I saw many of the aforementioned folk performers as well many others pay their final tribute. Emotionally speaking, I suppose he was some sort of idealized older brother or father figure for me during his life and a martyr figure upon his death. If you care about such things as hungry children in Chad or unemployed parents in Haiti, if it bothers you that so much of human suffering is avoidable, if it shames you that so much of this unnecessary suffering is consequent upon the policies of our government, then you ought give Phil a listen.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Though there are now a few pretty good Phil Ochs bios out there, this one is a good introduction to the man. Others might have a bit too much detail for the average joe, especially those not familiar with the life and music of Mr. Ochs. He was taking risks when others played it safe (Dylan, i'm looking at you!) He took chances, said what he had to say....and his world crumbled....hanging himself in 1976 in Far Rockaway, Queens. One of the most beautiful tragic souls to ever swim through the sewe Though there are now a few pretty good Phil Ochs bios out there, this one is a good introduction to the man. Others might have a bit too much detail for the average joe, especially those not familiar with the life and music of Mr. Ochs. He was taking risks when others played it safe (Dylan, i'm looking at you!) He took chances, said what he had to say....and his world crumbled....hanging himself in 1976 in Far Rockaway, Queens. One of the most beautiful tragic souls to ever swim through the sewer what is the music industry. Ahhhh, There But for Fortune!.....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I read this book in 2-1/2 days! Absolutely engrossing. Eliot deftly handles difficult aspects of Phil's life, personality and legacy. In no way a hagiography, this biography of what Eliot calls Ochs's "life and times" deals with Phil's misogyny & chauvinism, paranoia, mental illness and alcoholism, while at the same time revealing Phil as an idealistic (though flawed) and, at times, success-hungry artist and performer. I was afraid I would end up hating Phil Ochs after reading about his many fau I read this book in 2-1/2 days! Absolutely engrossing. Eliot deftly handles difficult aspects of Phil's life, personality and legacy. In no way a hagiography, this biography of what Eliot calls Ochs's "life and times" deals with Phil's misogyny & chauvinism, paranoia, mental illness and alcoholism, while at the same time revealing Phil as an idealistic (though flawed) and, at times, success-hungry artist and performer. I was afraid I would end up hating Phil Ochs after reading about his many faults, especially his abuse of the women in his life, but I ended up just feeling sorry and broken-hearted for this man who never (in his mind, definitely) achieved the success and critical acclaim he deserved.

  4. 4 out of 5

    j

    The music of Phil Ochs came into my life at a time where my political consciousness was being crystallized, and he became integral to the linkage in my brain between the violently sincere passion of the artist and the soul of the socially conscious thinker. But I have always been horrified and fascinated by Ochs the self-destructing doomed genius, in much the same way I am drawn to the films of Fassbinder. I think partially these obsessions have given me the chance to play out the phantasmagoric The music of Phil Ochs came into my life at a time where my political consciousness was being crystallized, and he became integral to the linkage in my brain between the violently sincere passion of the artist and the soul of the socially conscious thinker. But I have always been horrified and fascinated by Ochs the self-destructing doomed genius, in much the same way I am drawn to the films of Fassbinder. I think partially these obsessions have given me the chance to play out the phantasmagoric fantasy of my own decay, embitterment, monstrosity and death from a safe distance, while I simultaneously do everything in my power to keep my soul intact and my body safe and my mind secure. That, and Ochs was a brilliant writer -- funny when he wanted to be, heart-wrenching when he dug deep, and impassioned when he felt enraged. Reading about his life, and having a fuller breadth of his cruelty, misogyny, and tormented rage revealed to me has been not a shock, not a revelation, but something of a sobering confirmation. You can hear the darkness in every corner of his work -- some of his ugliest moments ("I've Had Her" comes to mind) are some of his most fascinating. The crucial finale of Rehearsals for Retirement really sums it up as it concerns the life-long struggle Ochs was the starring player of -- where the political met the personal and could not be untangled. You can't really separate art from artist, not when the artist is someone like Phil Ochs who made himself his art. But if you listen to "My Life" and you don't understand, all of this, at least on some level, if your soul doesn't beautifully ache, even just a little, then I don't know what to tell you. Eliot renders this all without overdoing it. His writing is plain and simple, his chronicle linear, his documentation unadorned. When he does write briefly about Ochs's music in a more analytical way, he gives just enough to chew on so as to highlight some of the more unnerving or inspiring aspects of Ochs, the man.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Oscar Sorvick

    I'm told that this isn't the most accurate biography about Phil Ochs, and that it dwells a bit too much on his flaws. Nonetheless, it was an interesting read, and it paints a very human picture of an unstable genius who was cannibalized by the same traits that him a platform. I'll recommend it. Note: I read the unrevised 1978 edition. I'm told that this isn't the most accurate biography about Phil Ochs, and that it dwells a bit too much on his flaws. Nonetheless, it was an interesting read, and it paints a very human picture of an unstable genius who was cannibalized by the same traits that him a platform. I'll recommend it. Note: I read the unrevised 1978 edition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Smith

    Disappointing. Well researched but not very insightful. Too often it's... "and then Phil did this". Too much interest in his relationships w Bob Dylan and Jerry Rubin... Disappointing. Well researched but not very insightful. Too often it's... "and then Phil did this". Too much interest in his relationships w Bob Dylan and Jerry Rubin...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steph (loves water)

    Engrossing and heartbreaking. I enjoyed this but it brought me to tears, and I hate crying.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    phil ochs was awesome.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dixie Diamond

    An interesting biography that tries to be kind to Ochs without stooping to slavish admiration.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Potash

    I'm very excited about this gift from my dad. I LOVE Phil and while his life-story is difficult, I also find it really inspiring. I'm very excited about this gift from my dad. I LOVE Phil and while his life-story is difficult, I also find it really inspiring.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This was a good book about one of my heroes.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Griffin

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charles Fuss

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shawna

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

  16. 5 out of 5

    John Barclay

  17. 5 out of 5

    John

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shelly

  19. 4 out of 5

    Russell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Celebrating Phil Ochs

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kipton Tewksbury

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An interesting, well written biography of Phil Ochs. He was active in the early sixties folk revival as a singer songwriter. He wrote many topical songs, similar to Bob Dylan before he went electric. Some of his songs were covered by Joan Baez and others. He hung out with that crowd in NY. But he had conflicting ambitions, to be famous and know for his songs. Unfortunately, he lacked the talent and temperament to be a star and still be beloved. Through the late 60's into the 70's, the quality of An interesting, well written biography of Phil Ochs. He was active in the early sixties folk revival as a singer songwriter. He wrote many topical songs, similar to Bob Dylan before he went electric. Some of his songs were covered by Joan Baez and others. He hung out with that crowd in NY. But he had conflicting ambitions, to be famous and know for his songs. Unfortunately, he lacked the talent and temperament to be a star and still be beloved. Through the late 60's into the 70's, the quality of his songs and his popularity become the inverse of his efforts. He suffered from serious psychological issues, which he denied and self-medicated. He hung himself at age 35 in 1974.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily Owen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Snyder

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stevie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Will Dockery

  27. 4 out of 5

    David

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Kerns

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Ervin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Annii Frazer

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