Over the course of a meteoric music career that spanned the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, Phil Ochs sought the bright lights of fame and social justice in equal measure—a contradiction that eventually tore him apart. From youthful idealism to rage to pessimism, the arch of Ochs’s life paralleled that of the times, and the anger, satire and righteous indignation that drove his music also drove him to dark despair. In this brilliantly constructed film, interview and performance footage of Ochs is illuminated by the ruminations of Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Sean Penn, and others.
"The short and tragic life of Phil Ochs is as involving as the music he wrote and played." —Los Angeles Times
P.S. from Marian Luntz, MFAH film curator
Watching the film with our audience last night—we laughed, we cried—prompts me to say, “Don’t miss the opportunity to see the film, even if you haven’t heard of Phil Ochs!” This documentary is a fascinating profile of the talented musician and activist, but it’s also a history lesson of the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. Beyond that, it follows Ochs on his global travels to South America (in Chile he befriended folk singer Victor Jara, who was later killed during the 1973 coup) and Africa (where the film makes a case for his anticipating what we now call “world music”). It’s so poignant to hear about Ochs from family members—his brother, sister, and daughter—and his many friends from the worlds of politics and music. Recent political singer-songwriters—including Billy Bragg (I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night) and Jello Biafra, who famously covered Ochs’s Love Me, I’m a Liberal—pay homage, and we also learn about Ochs's plane ride with Robert Kennedy and how Ochs came to wear a gold lamé suit in a late career comeback.