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Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)

JeremyC 17 Jan 07 - 08:49 AM
JeremyC 18 Jan 07 - 01:24 PM
Peace 18 Jan 07 - 06:53 PM
Peace 18 Jan 07 - 06:59 PM
JeremyC 19 Jan 07 - 10:20 AM
Genie 17 Jun 08 - 07:36 PM
Genie 17 Jun 08 - 07:41 PM
GUEST,jackson 04 Jan 12 - 08:59 PM
GUEST,jackson 04 Jan 12 - 09:00 PM
georgeward 05 Jan 12 - 03:19 AM
Joe Offer 05 Jan 12 - 03:22 AM
georgeward 05 Jan 12 - 06:50 PM
Genie 05 Jan 12 - 06:55 PM
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Subject: Lyr Add:LOU MARSH (Phil Ochs)
From: JeremyC
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 08:49 AM

I can't find anything in DT on this song, and Google's no help, either. It's clearly referring to a specific incident in Spanish Harlem, and given the timing, I'm sure that the song is an example of Ochs as a singing newspaper. Does anyone know anything further about the story of Lou Marsh? All I get from searching online is some canadian hockey player.

Lyrics follow:
LOU MARSH
(Phil Ochs)

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

CHORUS
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
CHORUS

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
CHORUS

Will Lou Marsh lie forgotten in his cold and 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, tombstone of us all
CHORUS

If this is really the only easy to find version of the story, I think this is a fascinating example of how people can be remembered primarily through art.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: JeremyC
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 01:24 PM

Update:

Thanks to Peace giving me Sonny Ochs' email address, I posed the question to her, and she told me that, while it's one of her personal favorites, she doesn't know any more about the incident than what's in the song. Her theory is that he'd heard about it on the radio or read a news article on it.

With my fairly limited research skills, I doubt I could find anything further myself, although it would be interesting to see an original news article on it. There's always the library, but I doubt their archives of New York papers go back that far, and besides that, I don't know the year, much less the exact date.

Question for you guys: Is there any feasible way I could go about this, besides actually heading to New York and searching through the papers from the early 60s? I'm not much of an investigator, though.

Assuming Ochs didn't take too much license in the song, it looks like Marsh was a pastor, or maybe a priest in a church, which he left to work in the ghetto, but I guess there's no way to tell whether the church was near Spanish Harlem, or if he'd moved further to do his work.

How do people go about finding this kind of information? Has anyone here undertaken such a task?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Peace
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 06:53 PM

"Lou Marsh - Ochs, Phil

Ochs, Phil. All the News that's Fit to Sing, Elektra EKL-269, LP (1964), trk# A.04

Seeger, Pete. Broadside Ballads, Vol. 2, Broadside BR 302, LP (1963), trk# B.07 (Ballad of Lou Marsh)

Seeger, Pete. Pete Seeger Sings Little Boxes & Other Broadsides, Verve/Folkways FV-9020, LP (1965), trk# B.02"

Because Phil WAS topical at times, I would suggest 1962 or 1963 as the time for the death to have taken place. I wonder if an e-mail to the NY Times would be of any benefit?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Peace
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 06:59 PM

Also came across this:

"THE BALLAD OF LOU MARSH
Words and Music by Phil Ochs
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.

Chorus:
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

Chorus

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 fist & feet & knives.

Chorus

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.

Chorus

*Words are often changed from one performance to the next. These two lines are printed in the song as it appears in Broadside:

But they broke his peaceful body
With their fist & feet & knives.
Also from the Broadside:

Youth Knifed
To Death Near
Central Park


By JOSEPH COTTER
A Bronx teenager was stabbed to death at 96th St. and Central Park West Friday night, the victim of the fourth murder in the park neighborhood in the past five months."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: JeremyC
Date: 19 Jan 07 - 10:20 AM

That's interesting. I don't really know New York at all, since I've never been there. Is the location mentioned in the article close to "Spanish Harlem"?

I like that alternate line, too. It's always cool to see revision in progress like that. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jun 08 - 07:36 PM

OMG, I was browsing the forum looking for info on Phil Ochs (in particular, about his death), and I stumbled across this song, which I had never known existed.

I met and was casually acquainted with Lou Marsh in the summer of 1962 in Greenwich Village, where I was involved with an ecumenical student project, coordinated by Judson Memorial Church, called "The Church And Urban Life" -   Lou was dating one of the other young women who was also involved with that project, and I was very much impressed with his gentleness and dedication to his work with the young people he tried to help.
To my great sadness I learned a couple years later that he had been stabbed to death by one of those kids.   

I am very glad that Phil, during his own too-brief life, saw fit to immortalize Lou in song.

Genie


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Genie
Date: 17 Jun 08 - 07:41 PM

Oh, and to answer your question, Jeremy C - albeit rather belatedly -, I'm pretty sure Lou Marsh was a social worker. That was my understanding when I knew him. He was connected with Judson Memorial but I don't think it was in any paid capacity.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: GUEST,jackson
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 08:59 PM

Most likely, due to how long ago this thread was active, nobody cares....however, if anyone is still curious....google books (click)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: GUEST,jackson
Date: 04 Jan 12 - 09:00 PM

(Google Books - click)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: georgeward
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:19 AM

There was an article on Lou Marsh and his death in the old Saturday Evening Post (the weekly one). I sang the song for years, and once had the article. No longer, alas. Didn't take too much digging to find the citation though.

Death Of A Youth Worker  Samuels, Gertrude // Saturday Evening Post;4/6/1963, Vol. 236 Issue 13, p74 
Profiles Lou Marsh, former leader of the street gang called Young Untouchables in New York. Description of his personality and family life; Names of people who killed Marsh; Views on his death.

And the source I got it from:

http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/18002236/death-youth-worker


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:22 AM

Here's the quote Jackson linked to:

A keeper of the Word: selected writings of William Stringfellow, p. 355-357:
    Lou Marsh died in New York City at ten minutes after nine on the evening of January 9th, 1963.
    At first his death was not much noticed, although it would have been, had not the metropolitan newspapers been struck at the time. Not that Marsh was famous in a way the world would necessarily remember him, but his death was one of the more shocking homicides in memory, even in New York City. If there had been newspapers, at least the tabloids, in their own way, would have celebrated Lou's death.
    Lou worked for the New York City Youth Board, assigned to one of East Harlem's juvenile gangs, the self-styled Untouchables. I remember suggesting that he apply for such a job and later writing to the Youth Board authorities to recommend him for it. When he decided to take the job, he called to tell me of what he hoped to accomplish.
    Lou was beaten to death by four guys. He had somehow persuaded the gang - the Untouchables - not to go ahead with a rumble to which they had committed themselves against the Playboys, another gang in the neighborhood. Some of the older boys - alumni, so to speak, of one of the gangs in question - wanted the issue between the two gangs to be settled in the traditional way, according to the canons of gang society, by a rumble. They resented the fact that Lou mediated the dispute or at least accomplished an armistice. Evidently they were humiliated that the younger boys in the gangs followed Lou's counsel rather than their own. So they ambushed Lou and beat him savagely. He lived for two days in the hospital, unconscious. Then he died. One doctor told me that the damage to his brain was so severe and gruesome that if, by some chance, he had survived, he would probably not have been been able to function in any ordinary way as a human being. He most likely would have been grotesquely invalided, living on as a vegetable.
    Lou died, it seems, an awful death, but a death that was apparently somehow better for him and for those who loved him than mere survival would have been.
    Among those who knew of Lou's death, but did not know Lou, there were easy, stereotyped reactions. Mayor Wagner observed that this was the first time in fifteen years that a Youth Board worker had been slain in the line of duty and said that he was outraged. I am afraid that Lou would have been more amused than anything else at the mayor's vague promises to do something about the situation. In his own way, Lou was often quite cynical, but he certainly believed that the mayor was far more so.
    And, of course, there were cries for violence to answer the violence of Lou's death. One neighborhood newspaper carried the news of the killing and then editorialized that what was needed was more police, perhaps some extra squads specially trained in guerilla warfare, to rout and destroy the gangs.
    No one realized better than Lou how shrilly inadequate such responses were. He knew that the violence of gang society erupts from the deep frustration of kids who have gone through their whole conscious lives without homes, without fathers, without love, without much of anything. They could hardly have told themselves how much they had suffered, for they had endured by themselves, outside society, without the care of another human being except for the other guys in their gang. And except for Lou, or someone like him, who happened to come along once in a while.
    Lou, who had been involved earlier in some of the sit-ins, knew that violence cannot absolve violence, and he knew that the peril to everyone - not just to the gangs - of the police becoming an occupation army in the slum neighborhoods is greater than the danger to him or others in gang warfare.
    Besides, Lou knew what it means not to be loved by anybody and what it means not to be loved by everybody.
    Lou was a Negro.
    He was from a fairly poor family living in the North. He had to save on sleep and work incredibly hard - usually in menial jobs - but because he was intelligent and sensitive, he managed to get a very good education. When I first met him, about five years ago, he was a seminarian at Yale, one of the handful of Negroes who have made it that far. But he grew restless with his studies at Yale; perhaps he felt somehow guilty about being in such a place as Yale Divinity School at all, while his folks were still where they were and while his people were still where they were in this country. For a time, after he left seminary, Lou, in a terrible way, hated the fact that he was a Negro. It was more than feeling sorry for himself; it was as if he complained about his own creation, as if he was rejecting his own birth.
    It seemed for him, for a while, better not to live than to be a Negro in America.
    After leaving New Haven, he moved to New York City.....


[unfortunately, the Google Books excerpt ends here]


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: georgeward
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:50 PM

Good grief! Somehow I missed the characterization of Marsh as "former leader of [a] street gang..." in the citation that I posted.

No! Apologies for not catching that. And it was not the way that the Post article characterized him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Lou Marsh (Phil Ochs)
From: Genie
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:55 PM

I care, jackson, and thanks for the links, jackson and george. Thanks for posting the excerpt transcript, Joe.


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