Dec 192016
 

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Today is the birthday (1940) of Philip David “Phil” Ochs, a US protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Ochs is not remembered much these days and was never as important in the UK where I was living through most of the Vietnam War as he was in the US, where he was definitely a major voice for protest. People like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez captured (and continue to capture) more of the spotlight, but for my money Ochs was a more heartfelt voice of protest, and – on this day at least – he deserves not to be forgotten.

Ochs performed at many political events during the 1960s counterculture era, including anti-Vietnam War and civil rights rallies, student events, and organized labor events over the course of his career, in addition to many concert appearances at such venues as New York City’s Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. Politically, Ochs described himself as a “left social democrat” who became an “early revolutionary” after the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago led to a police riot.

I’ll begin with, arguably, his best known protest song. That is, if it is remembered at all.

Where is this voice now?

Phil Ochs was born in El Paso, Texas, to Jacob “Jack” Ochs, a physician who was born in New York and Gertrude Phin Ochs, who was born in Scotland. Jack, drafted into the army, was sent overseas near the end of World War II, where he treated soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge. His war experiences affected his mental health and he received an honorable medical discharge in November 1945. Suffering from bipolar disorder and depression on his return home, Jack was unable to establish a successful medical practice and instead worked at a series of hospitals around the country. As a result, the Ochs family moved frequently: to Far Rockaway, New York, when Ochs was a teenager; then to Perrysburg in western New York, where he first studied music; and then to Columbus, Ohio.

As a teenager, Ochs was recognized as a talented clarinet player; in an evaluation, one music instructor wrote: “You have exceptional musical feeling and the ability to transfer it on your instrument is abundant.” His musical skills led him to play clarinet with the orchestra at the Capital University Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he rose to the status of principal soloist before he was 16. Although Ochs played classical music, he was interested in all manner of styles from Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. He also developed an interest in movie rebels, including Marlon Brando and James Dean.

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From 1956 to 1958, Ochs was a student at the Staunton Military Academy in rural Virginia, and when he graduated he returned to Columbus and enrolled at Ohio State University. After his first quarter he took a leave of absence and went to Florida. While in Miami, Ochs was jailed for two weeks for sleeping on a park bench, an incident he would later recall:

Somewhere during the course of those fifteen days I decided to become a writer. My primary thought was journalism … so in a flash I decided — I’ll be a writer and a major in journalism.

Ochs returned to Ohio State to study journalism and developed an interest in politics, with a particular interest in the Cuban Revolution of 1959. At Ohio State he met Jim Glover, a fellow student who was a devotee of what was called “folk” music. [Hint: Dylan, Baez, Seeger et al are not folk singers]. Glover introduced Ochs to the music of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and The Weavers. Glover taught Ochs how to play guitar, and they debated politics. Ochs began writing newspaper articles, often on radical themes. When the student paper refused to publish some of his more radical articles, he started his own underground newspaper called The Word. His two main interests, politics and music, soon merged, and Ochs began writing topical political songs. Ochs and Glover formed a duet called “The Singing Socialists,” later renamed “The Sundowners,” but the duo broke up before their first professional performance and Glover went to New York City to become solo singer.

Ochs started performing professionally at a local club called Farragher’s Back Room and was the opening act for a number of musicians in the summer of 1961, including the Smothers Brothers. Ochs continued at Ohio State into his senior year, but dropped out in his last quarter without graduating. Instead he followed Glover to New York.

Ochs arrived in New York City in 1962 and began performing in numerous small nightclubs, eventually becoming an integral part of the Greenwich Village music scene. He emerged as an unpolished but passionate vocalist who wrote pointed songs about current events: war, civil rights, labor struggles and other topics.

Ochs described himself as a “singing journalist” saying he built his songs from stories he read in Newsweek. By the summer of 1963 he was sufficiently well known in folk circles to be invited to sing at the Newport Folk Festival, where he performed “Too Many Martyrs” (co-written with Bob Gibson), “Talking Birmingham Jam”, and “Power and the Glory”—his patriotic Guthrie-esque anthem that brought the audience to its feet. Ochs’s return appearance at Newport in 1964, when he performed “Draft Dodger Rag” and other songs, was widely praised. But he was not invited to appear in 1965.

Ochs recorded his first three albums for Elektra Records: All the News That’s Fit to Sing (1964), I Ain’t Marching Anymore (1965), and Phil Ochs in Concert (1966). On these records, Ochs was accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. The albums contain many of Ochs’s topical songs, such as “Too Many Martyrs”, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, and “Draft Dodger Rag”; and some musical reinterpretation of older poetry, such as “The Highwayman” (poem by Alfred Noyes) and “The Bells” (poem by Edgar Allan Poe). Phil Ochs in Concert includes some more introspective songs, such as “Changes” and “When I’m Gone.”

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During the early period of his career, Ochs and Bob Dylan had a friendly rivalry. Dylan said of Ochs, “I just can’t keep up with Phil. And he just keeps getting better and better and better.” On another occasion, when Ochs criticized “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” Dylan threw him out of his limousine, saying, “You’re not a folksinger. You’re a journalist.”

Ochs deeply admired President John F. Kennedy, even though he disagreed with the president on issues such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the growing involvement of the United States in the Vietnamese civil war. When Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Ochs told his wife that he thought he was going to die that night.

In 1967, Ochs left Elektra for A&M Records and moved to Los Angeles. He recorded four studio albums for A&M: Pleasures of the Harbor (1967), Tape from California (1968), Rehearsals for Retirement (1969), and the ironically titled Greatest Hits (1970) (which actually consisted of all new material). For his A&M albums, Ochs moved away from simply produced solo acoustic guitar performances and experimented with ensemble and even orchestral instrumentation, “baroque-folk,” in the hopes of producing a pop-folk hybrid that would be a hit.

None of Ochs’s songs became hits, although “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” received a good deal of airplay. It reached #119 on Billboard’s national “Hot Prospect” listing before being pulled from some radio stations because of its lyrics, which sarcastically suggested that “smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer.” It was the closest Ochs ever came to the Top 40. Joan Baez, however, did have a Top Ten hit in the U.K. in August 1965, reaching #8 with her cover of Ochs’s song “There but for Fortune” which was also nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Folk Recording”. In the U.S. it peaked at #50 on the Billboard charts—a good showing, but not a hit.

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A lifelong movie fan, Ochs worked the narratives of justice and rebellion that he had seen in films into his music, describing some of his songs as “cinematic.” He was disappointed and bitter when his onetime hero John Wayne embraced the Vietnam War with what Ochs saw as the blind patriotism of Wayne’s 1968 film, The Green Berets:

Here we have John Wayne, who was a major artistic and psychological figure on the American scene, … who at one point used to make movies of soldiers who had a certain validity, … a certain sense of honor [about] what the soldier was doing…. Even if it was a cavalry movie doing a historically dishonorable thing to the Indians, even as there was a feeling of what it meant to be a man, what it meant to have some sense of duty…. Now today we have the same actor making his new war movie in a war so hopelessly corrupt that, without seeing the movie, I’m sure it is perfectly safe to say that it will be an almost technically-robot-view of soldiery, just by definition of how the whole country has deteriorated. And I think it would make a very interesting double feature to show a good old Wayne movie like, say, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon with The Green Berets. Because that would make a very striking comment on what has happened to America in general.

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Ochs was involved in the creation of the Youth International Party, known as the Yippies, along with Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Stew Albert, and Paul Krassner. At the same time, Ochs actively supported Eugene McCarthy’s more mainstream bid for the 1968 Democratic nomination for President, a position at odds with the more radical Yippie point of view. Still, Ochs helped plan the Yippies’ “Festival of Life” which was to take place at the 1968 Democratic National Convention along with demonstrations by other anti-war groups including the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Despite warnings that there might be trouble, Ochs went to Chicago both as a guest of the McCarthy campaign and to participate in the demonstrations. He performed in Lincoln Park, Grant Park, and at the Chicago Coliseum, witnessed the violence perpetrated by the Chicago police against the protesters, and was himself arrested at one point.

The events of 1968—the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the police riot in Chicago, and the election of Richard Nixon—left Ochs feeling disillusioned and depressed. The cover of his 1969 album Rehearsals for Retirement eerily portrays his tombstone.

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At the trial of the Chicago Seven in December 1969, Ochs testified for the defense. His testimony included his recitation of the lyrics to his song “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”. On his way out of the courthouse, Ochs sang the song for the press corps; to Ochs’s amusement, his singing was broadcast that evening by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News.

In August 1971, Ochs went to Chile, where Marxist Salvador Allende had been democratically elected in the 1970 election. There he met Chilean folksinger Víctor Jara, an Allende supporter, and the two became friends. In October, Ochs left Chile to visit Argentina. Later that month, after singing at a political rally in Uruguay, he and his American traveling companion David Ifshin were arrested and detained overnight. When the two returned to Argentina, they were arrested as they got off the plane. After a brief stay in an Argentine prison, Ochs and Ifshin were sent to Bolivia via a commercial airliner where authorities were to detain them. Ifshin had previously been warned by Argentine leftist friends that when the authorities sent dissidents to Bolivia, they would disappear forever. When the airliner arrived in Bolivia, the American captain of the Braniff International Airways aircraft allowed Ochs and Ifshin to stay on the aircraft, and barred Bolivian authorities from entering. The aircraft then flew to Peru where the two disembarked and they were not detained. Fearful that Peruvian authorities might arrest him, Ochs returned to the United States a few days later.

Ochs was personally invited by John Lennon to sing at a large benefit at the University of Michigan in December 1971 on behalf of John Sinclair, an activist poet who had been arrested on minor drug charges and given a severe sentence. Ochs performed at the John Sinclair Freedom Rally along with Stevie Wonder, Allen Ginsberg, David Peel, Abbie Hoffman and many others. The rally culminated with Lennon and Yoko Ono, who were making their first public performance in the United States since the breakup of The Beatles.

Although the 1968 election had left him deeply disillusioned, Ochs continued to work for the election campaigns of anti-war candidates, such as George McGovern’s unsuccessful Presidential bid in 1972. In mid-1972, he went to Australia and New Zealand. He traveled to Africa in 1973, where he visited Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa. One night, Ochs was attacked and strangled by robbers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which damaged his vocal cords, causing a loss of the top three notes in his vocal range. The attack also exacerbated his growing mental problems, and he became increasingly paranoid. Ochs believed the attack may have been arranged by government agents—perhaps the CIA. Still, he continued his trip, even recording a single in Kenya, “Bwatue.”

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The Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. Ochs planned a final “War Is Over” rally, which was held in New York’s Central Park on May 11. More than 100,000 people came to hear Ochs, joined by Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Pete Seeger and others. Ochs and Joan Baez sang a duet of “There but for Fortune” and he closed with his song “The War Is Over.”

Ochs became increasingly erratic. In mid-1975, Ochs took on the identity of John Butler Train. He told people that Train had murdered Ochs, and that he, John Butler Train, had replaced him. Train was convinced that someone was trying to kill him, so he carried a weapon at all times: a hammer, a knife, or a lead pipe. Unable to pay his rent, he began living on the streets. After several months, the Train persona faded and Ochs returned, but he continued drinking heavily and talking of suicide.

In January 1976, Ochs moved to Far Rockaway, New York, to live with his sister Sonny. He was lethargic; his only activities were watching television and playing cards with his nephews. Ochs saw a psychiatrist, who diagnosed his bipolar disorder. He was prescribed medication, and he told his sister he was taking it. On April 9, 1976, Ochs committed suicide by hanging himself in his sister’s home.

Years after his death, it was revealed that the FBI had a file of nearly 500 pages on Ochs. Much of the information in those files relates to his association with counterculture figures, protest organizers, musicians, and other people described by the FBI as “subversive.” The FBI was often sloppy in collecting information on Ochs: his name was frequently misspelled “Oakes” in their files, and they continued to consider him “potentially dangerous” after his death.

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Congresswoman Bella Abzug (D. New York), an outspoken anti-war activist herself who had appeared at the 1975 “War is Over” rally, entered this statement into the Congressional Record on April 29, 1976:

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, a young folksinger whose music personified the protest mood of the 1960s took his own life. Phil Ochs—whose original compositions were compelling moral statements against war in Southeast Asia—apparently felt that he had run out of words.

While his tragic action was undoubtedly motivated by terrible personal despair, his death is a political as well as an artistic tragedy. I believe it is indicative of the despair many of the activists of the 1960s are experiencing as they perceive a government which continues the distortion of national priorities that is exemplified in the military budget we have before us.

Phil Ochs’ poetic pronouncements were part of a larger effort to galvanize his generation into taking action to prevent war, racism, and poverty. He left us a legacy of important songs that continue to be relevant in 1976—even though “the war is over”.

Just one year ago—during this week of the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War—Phil recruited entertainers to appear at the “War is Over” celebration in Central Park, at which I spoke.

 It seems particularly appropriate that this week we should commemorate the contributions of this extraordinary young man.

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When I think of Ochs these days I think of the 60s. I think of his humanism, dedication, and faith along with his wit and sarcasm. In tribute I present this classic taste of the 1960s with my own hint of irony – Lipton Onion Soup dip. This was a perennial favorite at parties because it was easy to make and generally enjoyed – I guess. No need for more than the most rudimentary of recipes. You’ll need 1 envelope of Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix and 16 ounces of sour cream. Whip the two together and refrigerate for an hour or so. Serve with your favorite chips or raw vegetables.

Mar 082016
 

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Today is the birthday (1714) of Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach, also formerly spelled Karl Philipp Emmanuel, an 18th century musician and composer, the fifth child and second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. His second name was given in honor of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, a friend of Johann Sebastian. He’s part of the alphabet soup of Bachs, famously parodied by Peter Schickele via his alter ego, P.D.Q. Bach. It was, indeed, a prodigiously productive family, musically, but outside of J.S., C.P.E. is arguably the most notable. C.P.E. was extremely popular in his day, outstripping his father, but then his star waned until the later 20th century, when it brightened again. C.P.E. is commonly called a “transitional” composer between his father’s baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. I’d like to use his own words to counter the judgment:

According to my principles, every master has his true and certain value. Praise and criticism cannot change any of that. Only the work itself praises and criticizes the master, and therefore I leave to everyone his own value.

As much as we can, therefore, let’s forget his famous father and focus on what C.P.E. did in his own right. Not being a musical scholar, I can’t spend a lot of time on technical matters. But I know one or two things. Perhaps paramount is that I don’t like labels. To start, all the Bachs are called German musicians, and their music, German. This is an anachronism (that I have fallen victim too before, myself). Germany did not exist as a nation in the 18th century. There is as much difference between a Prussian and a Bavarian as between a Sicilian and a Venetian. And . . . instead of lumping him under a label of “transitional,” thinking of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods as high points with undoubted master exponents, let’s just look at what he accomplished.

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When it comes to labels he was listed as part of the empfindsamer Stil of the 18th century. “Empfindsamer” is normally translated as “sensitive,” but this does not quite get at the nuances which might include “true,” “natural,” “sentimental,” and “moody.” The emphasis is on dramatic fluidity with surprising changes of mood somewhat contrasting with the slightly later showier and stormier phase called Sturm und Drang (storm and stress), that emerged around 1770. Both emphasized extreme expressive contrasts with disruptive incursions, instability of key, sudden changes of register, dynamic contrast, and exciting orchestral effects, all of which are atypical of musical classicism as practiced in the second half of the eighteenth century.

C. P. E. Bach was born in Weimar to Johann Sebastian Bach and his first wife, Maria Barbara. Georg Philipp Telemann was his godfather. When he was ten years old, he entered the St. Thomas School at Leipzig, where his father had become cantor in 1723. He was one of four Bach children to become professional musicians; all four were trained in music almost entirely by their father. In an age of royal patronage, father and son alike knew that a university education helped prevent a professional musician from being treated as a servant. Carl, like his brothers, pursued advanced studies in jurisprudence at the University of Leipzig in 1731 and at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder in 1735. In 1738, at the age of 24, he obtained his degree but never practiced law, instead turning his attention immediately to music.

A few months after graduation C.P.E. obtained an appointment at Berlin in the service of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, the future Frederick the Great. Upon Frederick’s accession in 1740, Bach became a member of the royal orchestra. He was by this time one of the foremost clavier players in Europe, and his compositions, which date from 1731, include about thirty sonatas and concert pieces for harpsichord and clavichord. During his time there, Berlin was a rich artistic environment.

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In Berlin, C.P.E. wrote numerous pieces for solo keyboard, including a series of character pieces, the so-called “Berlin Portraits”, including “La Caroline”. His reputation was established by the two sets of sonatas which he published with dedications to Frederick the Great (1742) and to Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemberg (1744). In 1746, he was promoted to the post of chamber musician (Kammermusikus) and served the king alongside colleagues like Carl Heinrich Graun, Johann Joachim Quantz, and Franz Benda.

The composer who most influenced Bach’s maturing style was unquestionably his father. He drew creative inspiration from his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, then working in Hamburg, and from contemporaries like George Frideric Handel, Carl Heinrich Graun and Joseph Haydn. Bach’s interest in all types of art led to influence from poets, playwrights and philosophers such as Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Moses Mendelssohn and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. In turn, C.P.E. ‘s work influenced Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Felix Mendelssohn, and others, all of whom wrote of him with high praise.

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During his residence in Berlin, Bach composed a setting of the Magnificat (1749), in which he shows more traces than usual of his father’s influence; an Easter cantata (1756); several symphonies and concert works; at least three volumes of songs, including the celebrated Gellert Songs; and a few secular cantatas and other occasional pieces. But his main work was concentrated on the clavier, for which he composed, at this time, nearly two hundred sonatas and other solos, including the set Mit veränderten Reprisen (With Changed Reprises, 1760–1768).

While in Berlin, C.P.E. placed himself in the forefront of European music with a treatise, Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (An Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments), immediately recognized as a definitive work on keyboard technique. By 1780, the book was in its third edition and laid the foundation for the keyboard methods of Clementi and Cramer. In it, C.P.E. broke with tradition in allowing and even encouraging the use of the thumbs. Since his time this has been a standard technique for keyboard instruments. The essay lays out the fingering for each chord and some chord sequences. The first part of the Essay contains a chapter explaining the various embellishments in work of the period, e.g., trills, turns, mordents, etc. – vital for music historians. The second part presents C.P.E.’s ideas on the art of figured bass and counterpoint, where he gives preference to the contrapuntal approach to harmonization over the newer ideas of Rameau’s theory of harmony and root progressions.

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In 1768, after protracted negotiations, C.P.E. was permitted to relinquish his position in order to succeed his godfather Telemann as director of music (Kapellmeister) in Hamburg. Upon his release from service at the court he was named court composer for Frederick’s sister, Princess Anna Amalia. The title was honorary, but her patronage and interest in the oratorio genre may have played a role in nurturing the ambitious choral works that followed.

Bach married Johanna Maria Dannemann in 1744. Only three of their children lived to adulthood: Johann Adam (1745–89), Anna Carolina Philippina (1747–1804), and Johann Sebastian “the Younger” (1748–78). None became musicians and Johann Sebastian, a promising painter, died in his late twenties during a 1778 trip to Italy. C.P.E. died in Hamburg on 14 December 1788. He was buried in the Michaeliskirche in Hamburg.

Letter from CPE Bach to JH Voss

C.P.E.’s name fell into disregard during the 19th century; Robert Schumann notoriously wrote that “as a creative musician he remained very far behind his father,” with many others following suit. This is quite laughable given that a generation earlier J.S. Bach was also ignored because of shifting tastes. Don’t believe the critics, believe your ears. Johannes Brahms held C.P.E. in high regard and edited some of his music. By the early 20th century, he was better regarded but the revival of his works has been chiefly underway since Helmuth Koch’s recordings of his symphonies and Hugo Ruf’s recordings of his keyboard sonatas in the 1960s.

It may be a trivial accolade on my part, but I am intrigued by his compositions for mechanical instruments such as the music box and musical clock, popular at the Prussian court in Frederick’s day. Music boxes, in particular, are plagued with horrible tinklings. C. P. E. wrote thirty original compositions for these instruments, grouped together as Wq. 193. Frederick was intrigued by mechanically reproduced music and had mechanical organ clocks built for the City Castle of Potsdam and for the New Palais. Here’s one such piece recreated on the organ:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJ_fAOQNzsc

In honor of C.P.E.’s birthplace, here is a famous soup from Weimar. The apples make the difference !! This not the darker soup that is common in France, although the beer adds a bite.

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Weimar Onion Soup.

Ingredients:

1 lb yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
4 cups beef stock
½ cup German beer
½ tsp dried marjoram
salt, pepper
1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
5 tbsp Emmenthal cheese, grated
2 tablespoons croutons

Instructions

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onions and sauté until they are soft. Add the apple slices and sauté for a few minutes longer. Gradually add the flour, then the beef stock and beer. Season to taste with marjoram, salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes.

Serve very hot in individual crocks with croutons and cheese, and a chive garnish.

Aug 152015
 

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Today is the birthday (1912) of Julia Carolyn Child, U.S. chef, author, and television personality. She is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the U.S. public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which rarely now gets acknowledged as a coauthored work, and her subsequent television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963. Child is not well known in Europe, and, in fact, I had never heard of her until I migrated to the U.S. in 1975. Even then I didn’t know her for the simple reason that I did not own a television. I bought my first television in 1998 because my son pestered me into it. I still watch none myself. I have one in my apartment now and have never even turned it on. I had one in my apartment in Argentina with 104 cable channels; I watched local cooking shows, and occasionally turned it on if I had trouble sleeping.

I will watch cooking shows, but the “celebrity chef” is abhorrent to me. Emeril Lagasse, is, in my eyes, a buffoon and his audiences are no better. Why would you applaud because Emeril has just added bacon or garlic to a dish? I used to be impressed with Anthony Bourdain despite the self-crafted “bad boy” image. But his no nonsense, “honest” view of world cuisine fell apart for me when he started doing shows on places I knew intimately. His show on Argentina is an absolute travesty.  He missed or misinterpreted just about everything about Argentine cuisine, and his thoughts on asado (the crown jewel of Argentine cooking) still make me cringe.

Julia Child comes from a different era, when television chefs were there to inform and demonstrate. As a teen I gleaned a lot from them, including from the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr. Sure, he was teetering on the brink of celebrity, but had not fallen off the edge – yet. I still have not seen more than half a dozen of Child’s shows, but I like her straightforward approach as she savagely whacks a chicken in bits with a cleaver, or tells the audience to stop being so picky about cream and butter. Honesty, especially in the kitchen, is good for the soul.

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Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.

Child attended Westridge Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade, then the Katherine Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school.At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934 with a major in English.

Following her graduation, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena.

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She joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) after finding that she was too tall to enlist in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) or in the U.S. Navy’s WAVES. She began her OSS career as a typist at its headquarters in Washington, but because of her education and experience soon was given a more responsible position as a top secret researcher working directly for the head of OSS, General William J. Donovan. As a research assistant in the Secret Intelligence division, she typed 10,000 names on white note cards to keep track of officers. For a year, she worked at the OSS Emergency Rescue Equipment Section (ERES) in Washington, D.C. as a file clerk and then as an assistant to developers of a shark repellent needed to ensure that sharks would not explode ordnance targeting German U-boats. In 1944 she was posted to Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where her responsibilities included “registering, cataloging and channeling a great volume of highly classified communications” for the OSS’s clandestine stations in Asia. She was later posted to China, where she received the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service as head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. For her service, Child received an award that cited her many virtues, including her “drive and inherent cheerfulness.” As with other OSS records, her file was declassified in 2008, and, unlike other files, her complete file is available online (http://media.nara.gov/oss/McWilliams_Child_Julia.pdf )

While in Ceylon, she met Paul Cushing Child, also an OSS employee, and the two were married September 1, 1946, in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, later moving to Washington, D.C. Paul was known for his sophisticated palate, and introduced his wife to fine cuisine. He joined the United States Foreign Service, and in 1948 the couple moved to Paris when the US State Department assigned Paul there as an exhibits officer with the United States Information Agency.

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Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. She joined the women’s cooking club Le Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for the United States with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to North Americans. In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to U.S. women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed and practical.

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The three would-be authors initially signed a contract with publisher Houghton Mifflin, which later rejected the manuscript for seeming too much like an encyclopedia. Finally, when it was first published in 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf, the 726-page Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a best-seller and received critical acclaim. Lauded for its helpful illustrations and precise attention to detail, and for making fine cuisine accessible, the book is still in print and is considered a seminal culinary work. Following this success, Child wrote magazine articles and a regular column for The Boston Globe newspaper. She would go on to publish nearly twenty titles under her name and with others. Many, though not all, were related to her television shows.

A 1962 appearance on a book review show on the National Educational Television (NET) station of Boston, WGBH, led to the inception of her first television cooking show after viewers enjoyed her demonstration of how to cook an omelette. The French Chef had its debut on February 11, 1963, on WGBH and was immediately successful. Here’s the first episode:

This is not the feisty Julia people came to know, but it’s very good.

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The show ran nationally for ten years and won Peabody and Emmy Awards, including the first Emmy award for an educational program. Though she was not the first television cook, Child was the most widely seen in the U.S. She attracted the broadest audience with her cheery enthusiasm, distinctively charming warbly voice (which makes her sound mildly tipsy to my ears), and unpatronizing and unaffected manner. In 1972, The French Chef became the first television program to be captioned for the deaf, albeit in the preliminary technology of open captioning.

Child’s use of ingredients like butter and cream has been questioned by food critics and modern-day nutritionists. She addressed these criticisms throughout her career, predicting that a “fanatical fear of food” would take over the country’s dining habits, and that focusing too much on nutrition takes the pleasure from enjoying food. In a 1990 interview, Child said, “Everybody is overreacting. If fear of food continues, it will be the death of gastronomy in the United States. Fortunately, the French don’t suffer from the same hysteria we do. We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life.”

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Julia Child’s kitchen, designed by her husband, was the setting for three of her television shows. It is now on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Beginning with In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs, the Childs’ home kitchen in Cambridge was fully transformed into a functional set, with TV-quality lighting, three cameras positioned to catch all angles in the room, and a massive center island with a gas stovetop on one side and an electric stovetop on the other, but leaving the rest of the Childs’ appliances alone, including “my wall oven with its squeaking door.” This kitchen backdrop hosted nearly all of Child’s 1990s television series.

In 2001, Child moved to a retirement community, donating her house and office to Smith College, which later sold the house. She donated her kitchen, which her husband designed with high counters to accommodate her height, and which served as the set for three of her television series, to the National Museum of American History, where it is now on display. Her iconic copper pots and pans were on display at COPIA in Napa, California, until August 2009 when they were reunited with her kitchen at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

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On August 13, 2004, Julia Child died of kidney failure at her retirement community home, Casa Dorinda, in Montecito, California, two days before her 92nd birthday. Her last meal was French onion soup. Child ended her last book, My Life in France, with “… thinking back on it now reminds that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appétit!”

Here is her second show on The French Chef, French Onion Soup – a great favorite of mine that I have made for decades.  I don’t normally embed videos any more because they take up so much disk space.  But I have embedded this one as a special tribute to a fellow cook who likes to laugh in the kitchen.