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There But for Fortune

The Life of Phil Ochs

2018
Author:

Michael Schumacher

There But for Fortune

The life and influence of singer Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs burst onto the American music scene as the popularity of folk music was breaking through nationally, writing some of the most compelling topical music of his time. There But for Fortune explores the life and career of a singer, songwriter, and political activist whose music resonates today as much as it applied to a divided country a half-century ago.

A riveting, colorful, and anecdote-rich tale, well researched and finely told.

Boston Globe

Phil Ochs burst onto the American music scene just as the popularity of folk music was breaking through on the national consciousness. Along with friend and rival Bob Dylan, Ochs wrote some of the most compelling topical music of his time. In There But for Fortune, Michael Schumacher explores the life and career of a singer, songwriter, and political activist whose music resonates today as much as it applied to a divided country a half-century ago. His politically charged songs were covered by Pete Seeger; Joan Baez; Gordon Lightfoot; Peter, Paul and Mary; and a host of others, and such songs as “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” and “The War Is Over” became anthems of the anti–Vietnam War movement. He seemed to be performing everywhere, from concerts on college campuses to huge demonstrations, culminating with an appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.

But as this biography illustrates in painstaking detail, Ochs suffered from a dark side that gravely affected his life and music. Diagnosed as manic depressive, he shifted between incredible highs and debilitating lows that ultimately drove him to suicide at age 36. To piece together his life story, Schumacher interviewed Ochs’s friends, family members, and fellow musicians; examined his journals and scrapbooks; and even scrutinized his FBI files. While Phil Ochs’s life might have been plagued by downturn and tragedies, his music is an enduring call to activism and fighting for a better future.

There But for Fortune

Michael Schumacher has written seventeen books, including, most recently, The Contest: The 1968 Election and the War for America’s Soul (Minnesota, 2018) and First Thought: Conversations with Allen Ginsberg (Minnesota, 2017). He lives in Wisconsin.

There But for Fortune

A riveting, colorful, and anecdote-rich tale, well researched and finely told.

Boston Globe

Schumacher keeps his eye on the main theme: Phil Ochs wanted to sing the truth.

Chicago Tribune

There But for Fortune

Contents
Acknowledgments
Prologue
Book One: I’m Going to Say It Now
1. Boy in Ohio
2. The Singing Socialists
3. Bound for Glory
4. What’s That I Hear?
5. I Ain’t Marching Anymore
6. Changes
7. The War Is Over
8. Pleasures of the Harbor
9. Tape from California
Book Two: Critic of the Dawn
10. Chicago
11. Rehearsals for Retirement
12. Gunfight at Carnegie Hall
13. Travels and Travails
14. Here’s to the Sate of Richard Nixon
15. An Evening with Salvador Allende
16. The Downhill Slide
17. Train
18. No More Songs
Afterword
Source Notes
Selected Discography
Index