Phil Ochs:The Journalism Behind the Man

AMST 3683

This week I chose to take a deeper look at the Phil Ochs song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” I wrote a Wikipedia article about the song, but it wasn’t enough to cover the deeply rooted motivations behind its lyrics, aside from his personal experience in the state. Ochs—the singing journalist, has undoubtedly covered many important civil rights issues in the song. Layers and layers of information are coming from the lines, revealing the depth of his knowledge. The meaning of the message is clear, however the stories behind the meanings go much deeper. For instance, when he states, “…and the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown,” it’s likely he’s referencing former Mississippi governor Ross Barnett’s “I love Mississippi” speech. A speech that is said to have fueled the motivation for the riot at the University of Mississippi Oxford campus, following the admission of its first black student. Annotating Phil Ochs’ lyrics allowed me to clearly see his journalism-based song writing method. It allowed me to connect his journalism background to his music. And overall, it’s allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for Ochs as a journalist—something I’ve known about him, but never really understood until now.

Check out my annotations here!