Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon

June 17, 2012

Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out
the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another
country to be part of

Phil Ochs

 

This is the fortieth anniversary of the Watergate burglary, which eventually led to the resignation of Crook-in-Chief, Richard Nixon.  As Woodward and Bernstein’s summary of the affair points out, it was far, far worse than we knew at that time.  Years of investigation and trials have filled out the picture of the presidency, transformed into a “criminal enterprise,” a racket, not unlike those that festered around the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Milosevic, and other characters happily gone.  When he resigned, my mother danced a little jig for joy – They got him!  They finally got him! – but his rehabilitation was pursued relentlessly by himself, and his hangers-on right from the get-go, not without success.

Read the Woodward and Bernstein piece, or just sing along with Phil:

Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon

Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon
For underneath his borders the devil draws the line
If you drag his muddy rivers nameless bodies you will find
And the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes
And the calendar is lyin’ when it reads the present time
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the schools of Richard Nixon
Where they’re teachin’ all the children they don’t have to care
All the rudiments of hatred are present everywhere
And every single classroom is a factory of despair
Oh, there’s nobody learnin’ such a foreign word as “fair”
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon, find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the laws of Richard Nixon
Where the wars are fought in secret, Pearl Harbor every day
He punishes with income tax that he don’t have to pay
And he’s tapping his own brother just to hear what he would say
But corruption can be classic in the Richard Nixon way
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the churches of Richard Nixon and Billy Graham
Where the cross, once made of silver, now is caked with rust
And the Sunday mornin’ sermons pander to their lust
All the fallen face of Jesus is chokin’ in the dust
And Heaven only knows in which God they can trust
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

And here’s to the government of Richard Nixon
In the swamp of their bureaucracy they’re always boggin’ down
And criminals are posing as advisors to the crown
And they hope that no one sees the sights and no one hears the sound
And the speeches of the President are the ravings of a clown
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of

This song is a rewrite of his earlier song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi”

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Phil Ochs redux

April 10, 2010

In an earlier post, I mentioned how Phil Och’s ‘prophecy’ fell flat, but at a tribute concert to him tonight, I was struck by this lyric from the Power and the Glory:

But our land is still troubled by men who have to hate
They twist away our freedom & they twist away our fate
Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry
We can stop them if we try

Fear is their weapon, and treason is their cry…  I was thinking about Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, featured in Gail Collins’ column today.  Those words certainly apply and could have been written about American politics today, but Phil Ochs is not here to sing about it.  He foresaw that too:

And I won’t be laughing at the lies when I’m gone
And I can’t question how or when or why when I’m gone
Can’t live proud enough to die when I’m gone
So I guess I’ll have to do it while I’m here

Oh yeah, I guess we should change it to men and women, or people who hate…


Love Me, I’m a Liberal

November 11, 2007

seeger_woodyfest2000.jpgochs.png

Went to a local folk music concert the other day with Pete Seeger as the headliner. He’s 88 I think, and still a charismatic stage presence. His voice is pretty much gone, but who can play and evoke the spirit of old songs the way he can?

One of the other acts did some Phil Ochs songs, another great singer, also a songwriter, but he killed himself in the early 70s, a victim of mental illness. His music is filled with beautiful melodies and carefully structured lyrics, often poignant, often funny, sometimes bitingly satiric and critical.

The woman singing his material said that he was like a prophet, so many of his songs sound as if they could have been written right now, today. They sang a song about American armed intervention in the Dominican Republic that proved the point. “Snipers shooting from palm trees…” was one of the lines. But there’s one song where his powers of prophecy fell flat, with a great big thud – “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” Here’s one of the verses:

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I’ll send all the money you ask for
But don’t ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal

He pokes fun at Pete, but Pete is too gentle and generous a soul to have his last laugh… I wish this song were prophetic. I wish that being a liberal democrat were such a fuddy-duddy establishment thing that more “radical” folks would poke fun at you for it. I wish that being a liberal were something to make fun of in a silly, satiric way, instead of it being a smear word. I don’t think Phil could have forseen that – I wonder what he would have made of it.