Wednesday, March 13, 2013

POPEulism via Phil Ochs

The headlines today overflow with news of a newly elected Argentine pontiff, which means a great deal to a great many. While avoiding corrupted religious processes, I nonetheless adore great art and acknowledge much indisputably was created in the name of religion. Great art transcends all human foibles. And there's a song by Phil Ochs based upon the Christian canon that wells up strong emotions as surely as Michaelangelo's sorrowful Pieta does in the visual arts. 

One of the last projects I art-directed at Almo Publications of A&M Records was The Complete Phil Ochs: Chords of Fame, text by Tom Nolan and Marc Eliot, coordination by Michael Ochs, brother of the deceased songwriter. (More info, see LINK.) Throughout this lavish tribute flowed gorgeous photography, tablature of songs and insightful text with snippets of Ochs' best known work. But the only one I featured in toto was his "Crucifixion," whose lyrics trounced 2,000 years of overdone cliches with sheer innovation. (In the original recording, it was set against the perfect musique concrete arranged by John Byrd to highlight its stark newness.)

Since this isn't a licensed compilation like the book, here then are glances at the powerful imagery of innate altruism aimed at improving the lot of humanity--be it Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy or Jesus Christ-- cut down dead by banal evil. From "Crucifixion" by Phil Ochs:

"...he stand on the sea and he shouts to the shore, but the louder that he screams the longer he's ignored...'til the giant is aware that someone's pulling at his leg, and someone is tapping at the door..."

"...the Spanish bulls are beaten, the crowd is soon beguiled, the matador is beautiful, a symphony of style...but the hands that are applauding are slippery with sweat and saliva is falling from their smiles..."

" who would want to hurt such a hero of the game? But you know I predicted it, I knew he had to fall... tell me every detail, I've got to know it all and do you have a picture of the pain?..."

"...the universe explodes as a falling star is raised 'til the planets are paralyzed, the mountains are amazed, but they all glow brighter from the the brilliance of the blaze with the speed of insanity, then he dies." 

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