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Reason: Did this presage your role in SDS?
Oglesby: Like my hero Dyke Garrett, I was trying to do impossible things that I thought were right. Despite the sense of inevitable failure, I felt there was no way around the obligation to try to keep the damned thing from happening.
Reason: So why, four or five years later, couldn’t you write plays anymore?
Oglesby: There was always too much else to do. It’s not as if I broke all of my pencils. I just started writing books. And songs. Songs were fun. You could knock off a song in an afternoon if you were lucky. It was part of the movement’s culture: People had guitars and sang folk songs. So when the guitar got passed around at the party after the demonstration I would sing a few folk songs and then segue into one of my own. Word that I had written songs reached Maynard Solomon, who was president of Vanguard Records. He asked me if I would do an audition tape, so I did. He said that he wanted to do an album.
Reason: These two albums have been rereleased
on CD. Perhaps there’s going to be an Oglesby music revival.
Oglesby: Don’t hold your breath.
Reason: Forty years ago, yours was the hopeful
voice of American renewal in SDS. Do you remain hopeful?
Oglesby: It’s hard to imagine how the American citizenry could have put Bush back in for a second term. That goes a long way toward deflating one’s faith in democracy. Democracy only works if people pay attention and share some kind of essential commitment to values of honesty, truthfulness, concern for other people, and I just don’t see that anybody can make a decision about Bush without coming to terms with his failures in these respects. I can’t say I’m a pessimist; I’m just sitting back and watching it.