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Lou Marsh

Phil Ochs
Lingua: Inglese

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[1964]
Album “All the News That's Fit to Sing”.

4562

Louis Marsh was born and brought up in a tough neighbourhood of North Philadelphia. Unlike so many others however, Lou and his brothers were able to escape the ghetto and went to University before taking up careers perhaps atypical of those from such a background. Until being diagnosed with epilepsy Lou trained to be a doctor. Instead he began studying Sociology at Yale before training to join the Ministry. Unhappy with the rigidity of formal religion Lou took up full-time the youth work that was among his ministerial duties.

In 1958 he took part in an exchange programme with the U.S.S.R, learning how differences between nationalities and races could be overcome. Upon returning to the U.S. Lou began working for the Youth Board in New York City, assigned to work with the Young Untouchables, a Puerto Rican street gang from East Harlem. Lou said that; “I feel such kids have a lot of potential. I have confidence I can have some influence on their lives”.

Progress was frustratingly slow however. Lou took it upon himself to make visits to the kids homes and organise trips for them. Unused to adults treating them with anything other than disdain, the kids continued to treat Lou with suspicion; “I don’t seem to be able to get through to them” he admitted.

Lou’s next step was to find them a home from home, a safe environment away from their family home and off the streets. Community Centre 102 became a thriving base, where the kids could play pool and basketball, initially only with fellow gang members before beginning to mix with other boys. For a while at least, the community centre, and not the streets, became their playground. The streets however, were being left to other gangs. Older boys, former Untouchables who still held sway over the younger boys, believed that the streets, previously controlled by the Young Untouchables, were being overrun by other gangs, notably the Playboys of East 11th Street.

Samuels takes up the story;

“Monday, January 7 [1963], was a cool, clear evening in East Harlem. Louis Marsh, a street-club worker with the New York City Youth Board, walked along East 113th Street near Jefferson Houses, a city housing project. This clean, dead-end street, fringed by the red-brick high-rise buildings of the project, stood in sharp contrast to nearby streets, dirty and lined with tenements…”.

Lou went out to talk with some old Untouchables who had come to the centre to confront the younger gang members who they felt had betrayed their gang leaving their streets to the Playboys. As Phil sang; “The answer that they gave him was with their fists and feet and knives”.

Lou Marsh died two days later.

*

Lou Marsh was killed, not because a bunch of young ruffians from the tough streets couldn’t be saved, but because they could. As Samuels wrote; “He died because he was doing his job so well”.

Phil’s song asks; “Will his memory still linger on in those he tried to save?”

Samuels’ article gives some kind of an answer;

“The boys remember Lou. They remember his as a person who was close to them, who believed in them. Against the fears and threats of their parents, they went, in their clean clothes, to the service for Lou at Judson Memorial Church…they flinched when they were asked how they felt. ‘Don’t ask us that’, one answered bitterly. ‘Lou was our friend’”.
philochsthing.wordpress
On the streets of New York city when the hour was getting late
There were young men armed with knives and guns, young men armed with hate
And Lou Marsh stepped between them and died there in his tracks
For one man is no army when the city turns its back

Now the streets are empty, now the streets are dark
So keep an eye on shadows and never pass the park
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight
And death lurks in El Barrio with the orphans of the night

He left behind a chamber of a church he served so long
For he learned the prayers of distant men will never right the wrongs
His church became an alley and his pulpit was the street
He made his congregation from the boys he used to meet

Now the streets are empty, now the streets are dark
So keep an eye on shadows and never pass the park
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight
And death lurks in El Barrio with the orphans of the night

There were two gangs approaching in spanish Harlem town
The smell of blood was in the air, the challenge was laid down
He felt their blinding hatred, and he tried to save their lives
And the answer that they gave him was their fists and feet and knives

Now the streets are empty, now the streets are dark
So keep an eye on shadows and never pass the park
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight
And death lurks in El Barrio with the orphans of the night

Will Lou Marsh lie forgotten in his cold and silent grave?
Will his memory still linger on, in those he tried to save?
All of us who knew him will now and then recall
And shed a tear on poverty, tombstone of us all

inviata da Alessandro - 2/4/2010 - 11:46




Lingua: Inglese

The Ballad Of Lou Marsh (Broadside #21, late February 1963)
My story is a sad one, It’s ugly and it’s harsh,
About a social worker, His name was Lou Marsh,
He walked our slums and alleys, And he died there in his tracks,
For one man is no army, When a city turns its back

For now the streets are empty, Now the streets are dark,
So keep an eye on shadows, And never pass the park,
For the city is a jungle, When the law is out of sight,
And death lurks in El Barrio, With the orphans of the night

There were two gangs approaching In Spanish Harlem town,
The smell of blood was in the air, The challenge was laid down,
With patience and with reason,He tried to save their lives,
But they broke his peaceful body, With their fists and feet and knives.

For now the streets are empty, Now the streets are dark,
So keep an eye on shadows, And never pass the park,
For the city is a jungle, When the law is out of sight,
And death lurks in El Barrio, With the orphans of the night

In this city of corruption, Other gang wars will be fought,
And as you listen to my song, Your officials can be bought,
So don’t hide behind policemen, Or politicians lies,
But fight till every dirty slum, Is torn down before your eyes.

inviata da dq82 - 26/10/2016 - 21:37




Lingua: Inglese

The Ballad Of Lou Marsh (Broadside #27, June 1963)
On the streets of New York City when the hour was getting late,
There were young men armed with knives and guns,
Young men armed with hate.
And Lou Marsh stepped between them and died there in his tracks.
For one man is no army when a city turns its back.

And now the streets are empty, and now the streets are dark,
So keep an eye for shadows and never pass the park.
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight,
And death lurks in el Barrio with the orphans of the night.

He left behind the chambers of the church he served so long
For he learned the prayers of distant men will never right the wrongs
His church became an alley and his pulpit was the street
And he made his congregation from the boys he used to meet

And now the streets are empty, and now the streets are dark,
So keep an eye for shadows and never pass the park.
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight,
And death lurks in el Barrio with the orphans of the night.

There were two gangs approaching In spanish Harlem town
The smell of blood was in the air The challenge was laid down
He felt their blinding hatred And he tried to save their lives
But they broke his peaceful body Was their fist & feet & knives.

And now the streets are empty, and now the streets are dark,
So keep an eye for shadows and never pass the park.
For the city is a jungle when the law is out of sight,
And death lurks in el Barrio with the orphans of the night.

Will Lou Marsh lie forgotten in his cold silent grave
Will his memory still linger on in those he tried to save
And all of us who knew him will now and then recall
And shed a tear on poverty the tombstone of us all.

inviata da dq82 - 26/10/2016 - 21:41



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