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Links on the Chain

Phil Ochs
Language: English


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[1964]
Album "I Ain't Marching Anymore" (1965)

Trovata su Broadside Magazine n.46 del maggio 1964.
Pubblicata anche sulla compilation "The Best of Broadside, 1962-1988"

The Best of Broadside, 1962-1988, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2000.

Links on the chain, by Ira Robbins, su Salon.com, 19 settembre 2000

Phil Ochs


"It's August 1965. The Beatles are set to perform at Shea Stadium, but I'm stuck at summer camp in upstate New York, a few miles from the farm that would later host Woodstock. I'm sitting under a big oak tree with an equally outsized acoustic guitar. I'm learning to stretch my 11-year-old fingers into the awkward shape of a G chord from the camp's music counselor, a college student orphaned a decade earlier when the government executed his parents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, for leaking atomic secrets to the Russians. In the lyrics of Phil Ochs, we were building another link on the chain.

"Links on the Chain," which I learned to sing (if not quite play) that summer, wasn't your typical protest song. While others attacked oppressive governments, laws that need changing and assorted social inequities, this one targeted the labor movement for abandoning its progressive principles. Ochs himself was not able to stay on course either, but his early work stands as a monument to those op-ed columnists of song, people who knew and believed things and made it their duty as soldiers of conscience to convince others. "Now it's only fair to ask you boys, which side are you on?" sang Ochs. He might as well have been challenging the whole artistic community around him. [...]"
Come you ranks of labor, come you union core,
And see if you remember the struggles of before,
When you were standing helpless on the outside of the door
And you started building links on the chain.
On the chain, you started building links on the chain.

When the police on the horses were waitin’ on demand,
Ridin’ through the strike with the pistols in their hands,
Swingin’ at the skulls of many a union man,
As you built one more link on the chain, on the chain,
As you built one more link on the chain.

Then the army of the fascists tried to put you on the run,
But the army of the union, they did what could be done,
Oh, the power of the factory was greater than the gun,
As you built one more link on the chain, on the chain,
As you built one more link on the chain.

And then in 1954, decisions finally made,
The black man was a-risin’ fast and racin’ from the shade,
And your union took no stand and your union was betrayed,
As you lost yourself a link on the chain, on the chain,
As you lost yourslef a link on the chain.

And then there came the boycotts and then the freedom rides,
And forgetting what you stood for, you tried to block the tide,
Oh, the automation bosses werre laughin’ on the side,
As they watched you lose your link on the chain, on the chain,
As they watched you lose your link on the chain.

You know when they block your trucks boys, by layin’ on the road,
All that they are doin’ is all that you have showed,
That you gotta strike, you gotta fight to get what you are owed,
When you’re building all your links on the chain, on the chain,
When you’re building all your links on the chain.

And the man who tries to tell you that they’ll take your job away,
He’s the same man who was scabbin’ hard just the other day,
And your union’s not a union till he’s thrown out of the way,
And he’s chokin’ on your links of the chain, of the chain,
And he’s chokin’ on your links of the chain.

For now the times are tellin’ you the times are rollin’ on,
And you’re fighting for the same thing, the jobs that will be gone,
Now it’s only fair to ask you boys, which side are you on?
As you’re buildin’ all your links on the chain, on the chain,
As you’re buildin’ all your links on the chain.

Contributed by Alessandro - 2009/10/6 - 12:59



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