O is for Phil Ochs
Och’s discovered Guthrie’s sheer balladry while a student at Kent State, and realised he could harness the style to express his own work. He continued to write songs of protest long after Dylan had stopped, who famously told him, ‘You’re not a folksinger, you’re a journalist’.
Och’s song Draft Dodger Rag became a political protest anthem and Joan Baez made a hit of his There But For Fortune.
Aside from that, he did not enjoy great commercial success, though Dylan at first was nervous of Och’s potential. They shared a tense, cruel bantering relationship. Dylan said things to him like, ‘why don’t you just become a stand-up comic?’ and ‘find another line of work’. When Ochs told Dylan that Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? wasn’t as good as Positively 4th Street, Dylan threw him out of the taxi they were sharing.
Ochs, a manic depressive and schizophrenic, hanged himself aged 35.