I started college in the Fall of 1964. By that time there had been many demonstrations, and Martin Luther King was a recognizable figure. It was a confusing time because there were a lot of mixed motivations for what people were doing. As a fairly ignorant kid, living by that time in a very typical suburban setting, it was the music that called attention to the extent of the injustices of racism, and rallied a sense of unity with those who were doing something about it. Blowing in the Wind was sort of an anthem, whether it was sung by Dylan or Peter Paul and Mary. There was a very strong sense of a division between what was just and unjust, and the “generation gap” talked about so much at the time was marked by being clear about rejecting racism. I got dragged along by some of my friends to demonstrations. The emotional importance of singing We Shall Overcome while standing with those who shared deeply this commitment meant a lot. ( I was only in a situation where I felt threatened once or twice. My strategy was to get behind the nuns).
One of the musical figures that might not be so well known as Joan Baez or Pete Seeger was Phil Ochs. I think his best stuff was written in speaking out against the war. One good example would be Draft Dodger Rag. He wrote some stuff that was pretty bitter, Here’s to the State of Mississippi., and In the Heat of the Summer. And he wrote some stuff that is quite wistful, for example, Flower Lady. Music then had the power to trouble one’s conscience, as in Is There Anybody Here? The song that seems the one most people remember him by is There But for Fortune. I recommend them all to you. I still have them on my old reel to reel set up, but you can get at the performances now in ways easier and more familiar to you than that.
Phil Ochs: What are you fighting for?
Phil Ochs - I aint marching anymore http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5pgrKSwFJE&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL4A0F47A25C48C04D
Phil Ochs on You Tube