Saturday, December 8, 2012
This holiday season there will no doubt be a lot of folks receiving books. The perfect gift, right? OK, maybe not so more because you never know who has gone electronic and who has not. Either way, with the recent spate of memoirs by music icons, rock stars, and...well...survivors of the 60s, the likes of Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Robert Plant will do doubt make their way under a few trees. Some of these offerings are rather large too. Many, like their subjects are filled with vivid images, clouded memories, and rich experiences. They are often large volumes too. No doubt, there will be a few more coming down the road in a few years. We still haven't heard from many of the women who broke tradition, set trends, and sang their way into our souls. What we won't be getting, ever, are the recollections of a few of the best who never made it. We have bits and pieces. We have some film and video clips. We have, forever, the recordings. But no long life well lived and well reflected. The two people from that era that stand out are Phil Ochs and Richard Farina. Oddly enough, both were once thought to be rivals of Dylan, so you know they had something important to say. They also had an original way to say it. Phil Ochs took his own life. There is an excellent film, a pile of record albums, and some writing. If Dylan's words were sometimes challenging, Phil Ochs wrote song lyrics that left nobody wondering. He was the epitomy of an anti-war poet. What part of "I ain't a marchin' anymore" is not clear? Richard Farina had it all. He'd already written and published two novels by the time his motorcycle skidded off the road taking him away from the stunning Mimi (Baez) Farina his young wife. They had two best selling albums together that graced the collections of many a twenty something in 1967. We can only speculate what their careers might have yielded had they lived longer. Farina would have loved the way young people are beginning to embrace acoustic music again. His dulcimer playing would have probably evolved into something wonderous. Phil Ochs might just have experience a huge revival during the G.W. Bush administration. Fascinating how he might respond to Obama's foreign policy and use of drones. We can only speculate because we will never know. What is clear, however, is what Phil Ochs wrote in arguably his best composition: "There but for fortune go you or I." If you have never heard of or experienced the music of Richard Farina or Phil Ochs, do yourself a favor and check out these two near icons.