I promised music, so here it is, if only briefly. There’s a mild political slant as well.
Some people my age may remember Phil Ochs; I doubt that too many younger people will. He was a “folk” writer/musician/singer protester from 1964 through 1975 (but mostly through the very early 1970s), who wrote some stunningly beautiful songs as well as many extremely political songs, not surprisingly for the times. Many of his songs were angry–also not surprisingly for the times. Many were powerful, and some have been recorded by others (In the Heat of the Summer, There But for Fortune, Changes, probably others).
[The political part: I’m always bemused by the phrase “Lefty liberal” and its ilk. Phil Ochs would have been astonished, given that one of his meanest songs was “Love me, I’m a liberal”–a left-winger’s attack on us wishy-washy liberals, who I believe Ochs regarded as even worse than conservatives.]
Phil Ochs committed suicide in 1976, after years of depression.
I’d owned several Phil Ochs LPs, but never replaced any with CDs. When Elektra/Rhino released a three-CD (and book) set of most of Ochs’ work, I bought it, planning to pare it down to two CD-Rs of the stuff I liked the most. I wound up with one very full CD-R with the 19 songs (of 53 on the set) that I thought I’d ever want to listen to again.
Tom Paxton was also a “folk” writer/musician/singer in the 1960s and 1970s, dealing with many of the same issues (segregation, the Vietnam war, etc., etc.). Paxton also wrote some stunningly beautiful songs, and had a gift for writing songs that were so natural that people assumed they were “folk songs” rather than contemporary compositions. “The last thing on my mind,” “I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound,” “Ramblin’ boy,” and too many others to mention. I’d owned most of Paxton’s LPs during those decades–and until two or three years ago hadn’t replaced any of them with CDs. I picked up one compilation (just a sampling), and found that I like all of the songs on it. I’ve since picked up more.
Tom Paxton has also suffered depression at times. But there’s a difference, and I think it comes through in the music. Tom Paxton is still with us–and still writing and singing (he’s done CDs of children’s songs, and some of you must remember “the wonderful toy” from decades ago). He’s not a big star, but he still writes wonderfully and has pretty much the same rich voice he had 40 years ago.
One difference was clear when listening to their protest and anti-war songs. Tom Paxton hated war, hated segregation, hated pollution (“Whose garden was this?” continues to be a classic)–but always liked people. Even his anti-war songs were as much celebrations of life and people as anything else–“Lyndon Johnson told the nation” is powerful and just plain good listening at the same time.
No necessary inferences here. I believe that many people who commit suicide really can’t help it, or at least never found the right combination of medicine, therapy, counseling, and meditation to find some inner peace. I just find it interesting that Paxton, who couldn’t even seem to mount a vicious attack on a person when he completely disagreed with the policies, has persevered–while Ochs, who seemed to relish attack more than anything else, faded away years before he died.