Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On topical music and the power of song, nearing the 34th anniversary of Phil Ochs' death

No Depression asks "It's been 34 years since Phil Ochs' death, and where is topical music? Has its time passed?"

I answer...there is way too much introspective navel-gazing music that is passed off as folk (more accurately described as contemporary pop singer-songwriter), if you ask me. Next time you are listening to "folk" radio (probably underwritten by NPR or corporate grants), is the artist's voice in the first person singular (I, me, mine) or plural (we, us). Is it about a personal love interest or relationship or peace, social justice and fighting/rising from opression? Was the song underwritten by a perfume company, is the artist "singing for Bud" or are they free of corporate bonds?

But there are quite a few topical artists, anyone who performs as a part of a Sonny Ochs-produced tribute concerts (John Flynn, Kim and Reggie Harris, Magpie, Greg Greenway) plus stalwarts like Peggy Seeger, Jack Hardy (last year's Rye Grass is his 18th(?) album), Geoff Bartley (two very stong CD's inthe past year or so), Holly Near, Anne Feeney, and newcomers such as Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Joe Jencks, emmas' revolution, David Rovics, Evan Greer, Rawlston Bowles, name just a few.

On September 11, 2001, as I beelined south through Manhattan to get to my girlfriend-at-the-time, trying in vain to absorb what I just saw go down (literally), to make sense of it all in whatever immediate ...

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