I was walking out of the front door of Westover Hills Elementary School, unfurling my yellow safety patrol flag with the word “please” on it. Wrapped in the eternal present of childhood, I would only spend a few more steps there. A boy on the sidewalk turned from a person in a car and uttered the unthinkable. With every atom in my body, I resisted the reality of what I heard. I struggled. The unfairness was overwhelming. I remember what I said. “Now we’re in Johnson’s hands.”
Days of muted drums, backward boots in riderless stirrups, and subdued voices glued everyone to the black and white TV set – as unreal as real can be. A gloom, a forlorn saddness blanketed everything and everyone. The very word “November” became ominous and dark.
How could this have happened?
Soon after, the legendary Phil Ochs brillianty captured the wilderness of these emotions in “The Crucifixion” – an incredible song about how the world creates and destroys heros. I first heard it at the Village Gate in New York City through the profound voice of David Massengill. I was moved in the way that makes me silent for a long time. I had to wait several years before Phil’s sister, Sonny, would allow me the honor of performing it in a Phil Ochs Song Night.
On Friday night, November 22, 2013, fifty years after the day that changed everything, I will have the chance to sing it again. This time in as beautiful a setting as I’ve ever sung in, The Larz Anderson Auto Museum. I can already feel Phil’s words reaching every corner of that amazing space. Forgive me in advance if I seem not all present on Friday. I will be, it’s just that so much else will be present with me.