Today's lyrics are from _Phil Ochs in Concert_; I've transcribed the introductory patter below, since it ought to count as part of the song... There's been a drastic change in American foreign policy in recent months. Take the Dominican Republic - which we did [pause while audience laughs and applauds] - a little while ago, killing a few people here and there (mostly there), saving the day for freedom and democracy in the western hemisphere once again, folks. I was over there, entertaining the troops (I won't say which troops) - over there with a USO group including Walter Lippman and Soupy Sales. I played there in a small coffeehouse called The Sniper, and this was my most unpopular song, with the poetic, symbolic title of _The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo_ ...
(Poem #1843) The Marines Have Landed on the Shores of Santo Domingo
And the crabs are crazy, they scuttle back and forth, the sand is burning And the fish take flight and scatter from the sight, their courses turning As the seagulls rest on the cold cannon nest the sea is churning. The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo. The fishermen sweat, they're pausing at their nets, the day's a-borning As the warships sway and thunder in the bay, loud in the morning. But the boy on the shore's throwing pebbles no more, he runs a-warning That the the marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo. The streets are still, there's silence in the hills, the town is sleeping And the farmers yawn in the grey silver dawn, the fields they're keeping As the first troops land and step into the sand, the flags are weeping. The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo. The unsmiling sun is shining down upon the singing soldiers In the cloud dust whirl they whistle at the girls, they're getting bolder Ah, the old women sigh, think of memories gone by, they shrug their shoulders. The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo. Ready for the tricks, their bayonets are fixed, now they are rolling And the tanks make tracks past the trembling shacks where fear's unfolding All the young wives afraid, turn their backs to the parade with babes they're holding The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo A bullet cracks the sound, the army hits the ground, the sniper's calling So they open up their guns, a thousand to one, no sense in stalling He clutches at his head and totters on the edge, look now he's falling The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo In the red plaza square, the crowds come to stare, the heat is leaning And the eyes of the dead are turning every head to the widows screaming But the soldiers make a bid, giving candy to the kids, their teeth are gleaming The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo Up and down the coast, the generals drink a toast, the wheel is spinning And the cowards and the whores are peeking through the doors to see who's winning But the traitors will pretend that it's getting near the end, when it's beginning The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo And the crabs are crazy, they scuttle back and forth, the sand is burning And the fish take flight and scatter from the sight, their courses turning As the seagulls rest on the cold cannon nest, the sea is churning The marines have landed on the shores of Santo Domingo
I recently had the pleasure to read "On the thirtieth anniversary of a suicide" [see links], Chris Clarke's beautiful tribute to Phil Ochs, and was moved to follow suit. So here, slightly late, is a posting in memory of that sadly vanished genius. Ochs has, right from the moment I first discovered him, firmly taken his place as my favourite folksinger - his combination of lyrics, music, voice and performance is to my mind unparalleled. Furthermore, despite a genuine passion and, often, anger driving his songs, he never loses a certain touch of dry irony that makes his songs extremely effective. Today's song is unusual in how well it stands without the accompanying music. The atmosphere is skilfully built up and sustained, the word choices revealing considerable care that is masked by the steady flow of the lines. The relentless rhythm, the long lines with their heavy use of internal rhymes, carry the listener along with the course of the invasion, Ochs's commentary indirect but powerful and unmistakable. And, as with much of Ochs's work, the song has lost none of its relevance with the passing of the years. Chris Clarke really did say it best: And so this is how it is: We need you more than we did then and what right you had to take yourself I cannot understand. We had no claim on you, we could not keep you 'gainst your will but the songs you sang to us before we're needing once again and the fires that burn in Baghdad are the same that burned Phnom Penh, and the color of the skin on all the children that we kill. There are those of us who, one more time, are trying to take a stand and we really could have used your help here, Phil. martin [Links] "On the thirtieth anniversary of a suicide": http://tinyurl.com/o8xdf http://faultline.org/index.php/site/comments/on_the_thirtieth_anniversary_of_a_suicide/ Phil Ochs (December 19, 1940 April 9, 1976) on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Ochs Lyrics collection (including several tribute songs): http://web.cecs.pdx.edu/~trent/ochs/lyrics.html The Dominican Republic invasion: http://home.att.net/~jbaugher4/a26_18.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominican_Republic#The_twentieth_century