A Spotlight on Phil Ochs: interview with Sonny Ochs

Up next for the Catskill Mountain Foundation is an exciting simulcast with WIOX Community Radio: Phil Ochs Song Night comes to the Doctorow! Sonny Ochs, host of Folk Music and Other Stuff (on WIOX, every Friday from 2-4PM) has celebrated her brother’s music across the country, and now it’s time for Hunter to join in on the fun. I had the chance to do a quick interview with her about Phil’s music, passions, and her memories of him.


Sonny and Phil


Where was the first place you saw Phil play in public?

It was in a small room behind a bar in Cleveland called Faraghers.

Why do you do these events?

Because it is important to me to keep Phil’s songs alive.

His music must be pretty powerful if it affected so many people and continues to do so. Why do you think his music is important?

His music is important because it informs about the issues of the day. Unfortunately,  his songs which were written more than 40 years ago are still relevant.

What’s your favorite song of his?

“When I’m Gone.” It points out that we can’t do anything to help the situation when we’re gone, so we have to do it while we here. It also has a beautiful melody.

What would Phil think of today’s political environment?tumblr_mg4i25mui21raxbbko1_400

I think Phil would be just as shocked as the rest of us because someone like Trump has gone as far as he has. So much material for songs!

Was music Phil’s only passion, or did he have something else, like a hobby?

Phil was a movie freak. He watched movies non-stop from the time he was a teenager.

What would Phil think of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, and what do you think?

He’d probably think it’s wonderful. I don’t agree.

What’s your favorite memory of your brother?

My favorite memory is seeing him on stage at Carnegie Hall all by himself sounding so great. What a glorious moment!


Don’t miss Phil Ochs Song Night at the Doctorow Center for the Arts. Get your tickets here, while they’re still left!

We’re Glad she Never Played the Flute: Leyla McCalla

For some, heritage and ancestry is a minimal part of life – my great-grandparents are from Ireland, so mom makes corned beef and cabbage. For others, delving into who and where they come from is a large part of examining who they are as an individual. Leyla McCalla would most definitely be the latter, detailing her heritage and interpreting what she finds to see how it fits into the bigger picture. I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions; read on to learn more about her journey and what she’s found so far!

Your debut album was a tribute to Langston Hughes. What got you into Langston Hughes?a3004908863_10

Langston Hughes was a writer that I became familiar with, first through my parents, and second through school. For my 16th birthday, my dad gave me a book of Langston Hughes’ poetry and that’s when I really got into his poetry and started to understand his work in the larger context of American history and racial politics.

You released Vari-Colored Songs in 2014. What makes the poetry of Langston Hughes relevant today?

The New York Times recently published an article featuring Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too, America” questioning whether a poem could affect the course of the upcoming election. To me, that is great example of how Hughes’ work continues to be relevant. His poems ask us to question what our real values are, to be honest about that and if our values really benefit the good of the whole and even what we consider the whole to be. His work asks us questions that we’re still stumbling over as a society. He was an extremely insightful and visionary artist and I think we’ll be talking about his work for centuries to come.

What’s it like having your family on the road with you?

Having my family on the road with me is intense! I love it, I’m so grateful for it! But it comes with its challenges. Continue reading