Phil Ochs: “When I’m Gone”

Posted: January 31, 2014 in THE CLASH of Cover Tunes
Tags: , , ,
Tune du Jour: “When I’m Gone” – Phil Ochs
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Eric Andersen vs. Ani Difranco
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)


"Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs." - Milton Friedbyrd

“Free markets will not prevail without unfettered competition among cover songs.” – Milton Friedbyrd

When I’m Gone is one of many terrific songs that Phil Ochs penned. It first appeared in 1966 on Phil’s third album Phil Ochs in Concert. The song focuses on the need to live a fulfilling and effectual life in that our time is limited; you’re not going to achieve any aspirations (or affect social change) when your gone, so you’ll just have to do it while your here.

In retrospect, it is quite sad for a Phil Ochs fan to hear him sing these lines. He wrote When I’m Gone early in his career when he undoubtedly was still full of youthful idealism regarding what well-intentioned people could accomplish for the greater good. While displaying not a hint of sappiness, it is a hopeful, albeit, pragmatic song of the vast possibilities that lie ahead for a young adult. The fact that a mere ten years later he had become so jaded and depressed that he took his own life is truly tragic. As I’ve said many times in my posts, Phil Ochs is one of my favorite topical musicians. Yet, at times I can’t help but be resentful that he chose suicide. We was a national treasure. His cutting wit and fearless commentary would have been put to great use in the tumultuous decades following his death. Bob Dylan once said of Phil, “I just can’t keep up with Phil. And he just keeps getting better and better and better”. Unfortunately, Phil can’t add his name into the fight now that he’s I’m gone …

The Original


Phil Ochs


THE CLASH of Cover Tunes


Eric Andersen vs. Ani Difranco


Erci Andersen:

Ani Difranco:

Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?



Votes can be cast up to seven days from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

  1. bornunderabadsign says:

    I voted for Ani just to get the over the agony. Sadly, neither of these comes close to capturing the earnest emotion of the original. They both sound very contrived and overacted…Eric’s suffers from too much instrumentation and Ani’s halting vocals might have worked to start the song but at some point she could have broke into the melody

  2. ileneonwords says:

    A favorite folksinger and songwriter of mine. Gone too soon.

  3. RDubbs says:

    Gotta agree with BornUnder (well I also completely share Ilene’s sentiments about Phil), neither song is particularly enjoyable. Phil’s version sparks an array of emotions while Eric’s blandly meanders and Ani’s sounds contrived and grates on the nerves. I have not listened to a log of Difranco’s work but the few lps I have heard usually have a handful of songs I like and almost all of her tunes espouse sentiments I generally respect and support. Yet, on the whole, I find her style and delivery to be pretentious and dramatic to the point of sounding artificial.Eric scores some points for having been good friends with Phil, not that that should play into who I vote for but I’m grasping for straws here. Eric Andersen. There, I’m done. Now I’ll enjoy listening to the original version again.

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