Phil Ochs Songs Ranked

Philip David Ochs (December 19, 1940 – April 9, 1976) was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Some of Ochs’s major musical influences were Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, and Merle Haggard. His best-known songs include “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Power and the Glory”, “There but for Fortune”, and “The War Is Over”. Here are all of Phil Ochs songs ranked.

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11. The Crucifixion (Pleasures of the Harbor, 1967)

“The Crucifixion” is an absolutely chilling song about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, reportedly. The arrangement is way overdone, and there are better versions of the song on live albums, but this (overwrought) version is very interesting.”

10. Cross My Heart (Pleasures of the Harbor, 1967)

“The opening track, ‘Cross My Heart’, even makes us suspect of the worst, so cheesy it sounds at first listen. It gets better afterwards, but the record never achieves the same impact of his previous work. The rather ‘baroque’ arrangements are an acquired taste, most songs are longer than they need to be, and the vocals lack the power and impact that used to be Ochs’ trademark.”

9. I’m Going to Say It Now (Phil Ochs in Concert, 1966)

“Phil Ochs was funnier and more to the point than a political standup such as Mort Sahl could ever wish to be. I have read the in-between song banter on this album described as being “the most droll ever put to vinyl”- I couldn’t have said it better! And the songs are really good, too.”

8. Draft Dodger Rag (I Ain’t Marching Any More, 1965)

“More traditional folk approach on this earlier record, and still damn straight. Great protest material from one of the mostly forgotten greats. A great time period record, and the title track is a classic in any era.”

See more: Phil Ochs Albums Ranked

7. Here’s to the State of Mississippi (I Ain’t Marching Any More, 1965)

“Here’s to the State of Mississippi” accomplishes something which no other song I’ve heard does. It is barely a song if you think about it like a critic – verse after verse, Ochs’ delivery staying very similar each time. But as you listen to it, and you look around at the four walls around you, you’ll notice they start to disintegrate, the sun begins to shine through, and beautiful green fields begin to animate all around you. This song is about many of the social/religious/judicial injustices that existed in the state of Mississippi at the time of writing.”

6. Chords of Fame (Chords of Fame, 1976)

“Released shortly after his death in 1976 this double LP was my introduction to the music of Phil Ochs and, looking back, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. As with most career retrospectives, it covers too many different styles to be a totally satisfying album in its own right but, as a tribute and an introduction, it more than serves its purpose.

5. Outside of a Small Circle of Friends (Pleasures of the Harbor, 1967)

“Lyrically, Ochs has some fairly biting commentary throughout, especially on the single “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, which covers the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City and the level of social apathy apparent in different situations. Of course, he matches up his serious lyrics with an arrangement that includes dopey honky-tonk piano and banjo playing, making the tune seem like a novelty rather than a serious statement.”

See more: The Band Albums Ranked

4. Celia (All the News That’s Fit to Sing, 1964)

“This is a completely topical album. Good but can’t leave a big impact behind due to its soon-to-be-outdated materials. Danny Kalb’s guitar works really shines on this record… How I miss him on “Phil Ochs in Concert”!”

3. I Ain’t a Marching Anymore (I Ain’t a Marching Anymore, 1965)

“Ochs’ signature song was the title track to his second album, 1965’s I Ain’t Marching Anymore. In five quick verses, Ochs traces a great deal of America’s history of military conflicts; from the World Wars to the Plains Wars. Each verse ends with the song’s defiant title statement, though Ochs suspects that it’s always just a matter of time before another generation of young Americans will be sent into battle.”

2. Love Me I’m a Liberal (Phil Ochs in Concert, 1966)

“Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, which presents the always-timely message, and does so in hilarious and tuneful fashion, that just because one isn’t an arch right-winger doesn’t mean one should be smug.”

1. When I’m Gone (Phil Ochs in Concert, 1966)

“”It has often been said that Phil craved attention, one of the main reasons he decided to use the musical platform for his activism. Consequently, the sounds noticeably more inspired while performing to a live crowd, and receiving their adulation first hand.”