First Run Features announced today its acquisition of Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune, the new feature documentary from Michael Cohl’s S2BN Entertainment. Produced and Directed by veteran filmmaker Kenneth Bowser, whose previous work includes Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How Sex, Drugs &Rock and Roll Saved Hollywood; John Ford/John Wayne: The Filmmaker and The Legend; and Preston Sturges: The Rise And Fall Of An American Dreamer.
As our country continues to embroil itself in foreign wars and pins its hopes on a new leader’s promise for change, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune is a timely and relevant tribute to an unlikely American hero.
Phil Ochs, a folk singing legend, was moved by the conviction that he and his music would change the world. Ochs rose to fame in the early 1960’s during the height of the folk movement with songs and lyrics that captured the idealism of the day. From protesting the Vietnam War to supporting striking miners, from ridiculing sitting Presidents to mocking the politically disinterested, he attacked the political establishment and often his own fan base with anger, satire and righteous indignation.
Ochs released seven acclaimed albums and wrote hundreds of songs – from humorous to haunting. The songs serve as narrator of the film, helping to explain Ochs’ complex political and personal life. Phil Ochs sought the bright lights of fame and the achievement of social justice in equal measure. It was this defining contradiction that eventually tore him apart.
While he never gained the widespread attention he so desperately wanted, his solo shows and his radical politics generated the kind of controversy that only a true star could attract. His friends were passionate, his enemies devoted.
Joan Baez, Tom Hayden, Pete Seeger, Sean Penn, Peter Yarrow, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Sanders, and others who knew or were inpired by Ochs tell stories of political passions that were equal parts idealism, conviction and fantasy mixed together with big egos and often wild disorganization.
By the time the sixties ended all that had seemed possible just a few years earlier began to fade and Phil Ochs took this hopelessness to heart as if the failings of the movement were his own. His story and fate reflect the best, and the worst, of a history that, to paraphrase Santanya, “we seem condemned to repeat.”
The music of Ochs lives on, influencing and inspiring songwriters around the world. Artists such as Pearl Jam, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg, and They Might Be Giants have covered his songs, the best-known of which include “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Power and the Glory”, “There But for Fortune”, and “The War Is Over”.