I’m just a city boy 
Born and bred
It’s a city life I’ve led

City Boy’ is one of the lesser known songs by American, topical singer and songwriter, Phil Ochs, and was recorded on an unknown date in the mid-sixties.

Ochs arrived in New York City in 1962 and began performing in numerous small folk nightclubs, quickly becoming a regular face on the Greenwich Village folk music scene, and was soon getting recognition for his sharp wit, dark and humorous lyrics, and political activism.

His most well-known protest songs includes the likes of ‘I Ain’t Marching Any More’ and ‘War Is Over’, which later was obviously a huge influence on John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

I’m just a city boy
Born and raised
From these rooftops I have gazed

“Phil Ochs changed my life”, remembered New York poet, Jim Carroll, who dedicated his memoir of growing up in the Sixties, The Basketball Diaries, to Ochs.

Carroll listened to pop like The Four Seasons until ‘a guy at school’ turned him onto Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs. “Ochs had by far the most impact on me, and from there both my politics and my aesthetics became different.”

I’m just a city boy
Born and grown
That’s all I’ve ever known

In mid-1975, as a result of bipolar disorder and increasing alcoholism, Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train, and told people that Train had murdered Ochs, and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him. Train was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon around with him at all times.

During his career, Ochs wrote hundreds of songs and released several albums. He was found dead by hanging on April 9th, 1976.

Check out the Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune documentary by American Masters.

Words: Anders Knudsen