Folksinger and quintessential left-leaning activist Phil Ochs floated around the edges of Greenwich Village royalty in the 60s, maintaining an on-again, off-again friendship/rivalry with Bob Dylan and writing such songs as I Aint Marchin Anymore and There But for Fortune, which injected the influences of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger into topical subjects. Like Dylan, he later traded the straight folkie image for forays into new realms of pop music, adopting an orchestrated singer-songwriter persona later on and even donning a Nudie suit for the album Greatest Hits, which in fact contained all new material.
Perhaps you can see where all this is leading. Ochs, the self-proclaimed singing journalist, never quite made it to the top; as the protest movements of the 60s morphed into more complex, violent and drug-addled scenarios, the earnest performer (who, it later turned out, was the subject of a 400-page FBI dossier) became jaded, cynical and, finally, officially bipolar. In 1976, at the age of 36, he hanged himself.
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Theres a story worth telling in Ochss broken life, and thats the premise of Phil Ochs: There But for Fortunei>, a new documentary by Kenneth Bowser; Joan Baez, Tom Hayden, Seeger, Sean Penn, Peter Yarrow, Christopher Hitchens and Ed Sanders are among the many talking heads appearing in the film. Phil Ochs opens today for a one-week run at the Denver FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue; admission ranges from $7 to $9.75. For more information, go to www.denverfilm.org or call 303-595-3456.
March 4-10, 2011