Here's to the State of Mississippi

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"Here's to the State of Mississippi" is a civil rights protest song by Phil Ochs, an American topical singer and songwriter in the 1960s. Ochs is best known for his anti-war and freedom songs. "Here's to the State of Mississippi" was released in 1965 as the last track on his album I Ain't Marching Anymore. The song criticizes the state of Mississippi for its mistreatment of African Americans. He points out various problems with the social constructs that allowed for oppression of the race. Jim Crow laws and white supremacy in the South fueled an imbalance in the civil structure of the state. "Here's to the State of Mississippi" touches on various issues like segregation, corrupt and biased school systems, and the negligence and crookedness of society and of government officials.

Ochs was inspired to write this song following a visit to the state as a volunteer for the Mississippi Caravan of Music.[1] The Caravan worked in conjunction with the Mississippi Freedom Summer Campaign (Freedom Summer).[2] Freedom Summer was a volunteer-based campaign that began in June 1964. The campaign aimed to register black voters in a place where the voting rights for blacks were nearly non-existent. The Caravan supported the mission of Freedom Summer through motivational songs and participation in campaign projects throughout the state.[3]

Ochs was deeply affected by what he saw and experienced in Mississippi. One incident in particular that shook the Freedom Summer campaign was the murder of three civil rights workers. Within the first month of the Freedom Summer campaign, civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were arrested in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three were released after a few hours. However, as they drove through Neshoba County, Mississippi later that day, they were pulled over again and abducted by officers working with the Ku Klux Klan. The three were reported missing and an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) investigation began with a large-scale search of the area. The investigation revealed that the activists were beaten and shot to death. Their bodies were found buried beneath a dam.

Ochs sings, "If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find," which refers to the FBI's search for Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner. While searching for the three civil rights activists, Navy divers and FBI agents found the mangled bodies of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19-year-old men who had been kidnapped, beaten and tortured, and then dropped alive into the Mississippi River by Klan members a month earlier. They also found the bodies of 14-year-old Herbert Oarsby and five other African Americans who remain unidentified; none of their kidnappings had attracted attention outside their local communities.[4]

Adaptation[edit]

Here's to the State of Richard Nixon

Phil Ochs released the song "Here's to the State of Richard Nixon" as a single in 1974.[5] Ochs replaces 'Mississippi' with 'Richard Nixon' in the lyrics. Additionally, Ochs changes some verses to reflect criticisms about the Nixon administration.

Additional civil rights songs by Phil Ochs[edit]

  • "The Ballad of Medgar Evers" (1964)
  • "William Moore" (1964)
  • "The Ballad of Oxford" (mid-1960s)
  • "Going Down To Mississippi" (mid-1960s)
  • "Colored Town" (mid-1960s)
  • "Days of Decision" (1965)
  • "Love Me I'm A Liberal" (1966)

Covers[edit]

Artist Appearance Year
Eugene Chadbourne To Phil 1998[6]
Wyclef Jean Soundtrack for a Revolution 2009[7]
Katy Moffatt What's That I Hear?: The Songs of Phil Ochs 1998[8]
Pearl Jam VH1 Storytellers 2006[9]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bowser, K (Director). (n.d.). Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune [Video file]. Retrieved February 20, 2018 from https://www.hoopladigital.com/play/10023677
  2. ^ Eyerman, Ron (1998). Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 101. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Cohen, Robert (Bob) (February 19, 2018). "The Mississippi Caravan of Music". Broadside Magazine.
  4. ^ Lynching of Chaney, Schwerner & Goodman ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  5. ^ "Phil Ochs – Here's To The State Of Richard Nixon / Power And Glory". Discogs. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  6. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Songs – Eugene Chadbourne". AllMusic. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  7. ^ Hornaday, Ann (April 30, 2010). "Movie Review: 'Soundtrack for a Revolution'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  8. ^ Eder, Bruce. "What's That I Hear?: The Songs of Phil Ochs – Various Artists". AllMusic. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  9. ^ "Pearl Jam Tells Its 'Story' at VH1 Taping". Billboard. June 2, 2006. Retrieved May 7, 2016.