Ochs and War Songs

Phil Ochs, wrote some prolific songs in the 1960s and 1970s; influenced by the then-current events like the Vietnam War. Some of the songs I placed in the playlist are about the Vietnam War, while others are about other specific battles and conflicts in general.  I wanted some live version of the songs since it’s always great to hear Ochs’ personal notes about the songs he wrote.

“We Seek No Wider War” tells us in stark detail about the atrocities of war events, from “…Machine gun bullets became the bloody baptizers…” to “…While we were watching the prisoners were tested by torture and vicious and violent gasses maintained the order…”  He specifically wrote this about the Vietnam War but was able to weave other effects of war times. I enjoy the acoustic guitar notes, however his lyrics are pretty graphic and that may have been his point.

The lyrics for “What Are You Fighting For” alludes to young men who are wanting to join the war without really knowing what the truth about the war.

In “Talking Vietnam,” Ochs “dedicated (the song) to Johnson and all the liberals,” was co-written by Bob McNamara. This song comes across pretty descriptive, yet critical of Vietnam rulers and the American troops fighting for reasons not their own.

“Draft Dodger Rag” is another Vietnam-era song from a first person narrative offering reasons or excuses for not joining the military. The descriptions were flowing and I could really imagine some of the phrases.

I really enjoyed “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” the most out of the songs because he wrote about several battles, and didn’t focus on the Vietnam War. Each war had its own verse and its own details; another reason I enjoy Ochs’ song writing. He really pulls you in with the lyrics but the melody of the music can almost “hide” the ugliness of the war.


One thought on “Ochs and War Songs

  1. andreaintulsa says:

    I like the connection you made to war songs all by phil ochs. He had a lot to say and clearly did his research. I think his method of telling the news through song was effective because songs are more interesting than a news article and withstands time better.


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