Term of Award

Spring 2016

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of History

Committee Chair

Eric Hall

Committee Member 1

Lisa Denmark

Committee Member 2

Christina Abreu

Abstract

ABSTRACT

Though a prolific topical musician and a prominent figure of the antiwar movement during the 1960s, Phil Ochs remains relatively understudied by scholars due to the lure of more commercially successful folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. His music facilitated awareness of pressing, and sometimes controversial, issues that would otherwise have not been discussed. Focusing on Ochs’ most musically productive years from 1964 until 1968, which coincide with the years of increased American involvement in Southeast Asia, this thesis analyzes Ochs in a way that has not been attempted before. It places his anti-Vietnam War songs in conversation with leading national newspapers, such as The New York Times, The Atlanta Constitution, and the Chicago Tribune, and popular magazines of the era, such as LIFE and The Saturday Evening Post. Sonny Ochs, Phil Ochs’ older sister, also gave a candid oral history interview for this project. This thesis argues that Ochs, as a musical journalist and activist, offered a more pragmatic and critical understanding of the war effort than was found in the popular press. Additionally, this thesis argues that his compositions are stronger and less compromising than any of his musical contemporaries.

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