His strenuous advocacy of peace, freedom, equality, social fairness, human rights and human dignity inspired nearly all of his music, that very same music, in turn, inspired or gave voice to a similar advocacy of many others at the time.
For instance, in one of his most known songs, “The War Is Over”, from his 1968 album “Tape from California”, he envisioned that the war in Vietnam – which in reality would go on for another 7 years – had already ended, therefore declared it over, inviting others to join his vision. The invitation was earnestly accepted, and when Ochs performed the song to a crowd of at least 6000 anti-war protesters gathered at the Chicago Coliseum on the 27th of August 1968, the members of the audience started burning their military draft cards.
However, though Ochs incarnated a pivotal figure in the anti-war movement at the time, the scope of his social heedfulness covered many other pressing and controversial issues, critically commented, in his songs, with his characteristic uncompromising and quick-witted veracity. Some of those issues keep being as pressing and controversial as they were at the time, though one would ingenuously think that the passing of half a century would have reduced them to nothing but unfathomable anachronisms.
It is the case, for instance, of the still much debated legitimacy of capital punishment, to which Ochs unequivocally objected in his song “Iron Lady”, from the 1965 album “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”. In the liner notes of the album, Ochs noted that his inspiration to conceive this fervent anthem against the death penalty had stemmed from the Caryl Chessman [case]( which began in 1948 and eventually led to Chessman being executed in 1960 by the state of Florida, regardless of the national and international pleads to prevent it.
In 1998, the Greek-American avant-garde artist Diamanda Galás dedicated her own interpretation, Wuornos had already served 6 years in death row and would be serving another 4, before being executed in 2002, once again, by the state of Florida.
In “The Selling of a Serial Killer”(1993), the first of the two documentaries in which filmmaker Nick Broomfield followed Wuornos’ controversial case, her then lawyer Steve Glazer, recounted his singing “Iron Lady” to Wuornos while she was incarcerated. According to Glazer, she “enjoyed it”.
Have you seen the iron lady’s charms?
Legs of steel, leather on her armsTaking on a man to dieA life for a life, an eye for an eye**And death’s the iron lady in the chair