Carl Oglesby’s Songs

   [This page introduces the site:  Info about Carl Oglesby and about my song arrangements.]
  ¹  [For songs from his 1st LP, click “songs 1-9” here or under Navigation at the right.]
  ²  [For songs from his 2nd LP, click “songs 10-19” here or under Navigationat the right.]

“You may be familiar with Carl Oglesby — activist, political theorist, social commentator, playwright, poet.  We’re proud to be able to introduce you to Carl Oglesby — composer, musician.”
     – sleeve of the Vanguard Records promo single for Oglesby’s first LP, 1969

Reason Magazine, April 2008 (Bill Kauffman):  These two albums have been rereleased on CD.  Perhaps there’s going to be an Oglesby music revival.”
Oglesby:  Don’t hold your breath.”

Carl Oglesby is most often remembered for his role as an influential antiwar activist in the 1960s.  You can easily find info online about him as an activist and author.  For example:

But he’s still not widely recognized as a superb singersongwriter.  His songs combine bold imagery with playful rhymes.  Carl Oglesby was a master at telling intriguing, dark
and often cryptic stories in song – in a unique style more akin to literature than to ballads.
  (Despite his activism, don’t expect protest songs or “political issue” songs here.  His story-songs are far from that – even his stories of political intrigue with historical context...)  Listeners put pieces together in their own way to hear the story – one which might change the next time they hear it.

The content of his songs can be bigger on the inside than the outside.  Other songwriters using incidental characters or settings to set a scene usually introduce them first.  In Oglesby’s songs, their backstory may be left to your imagination.  
(Above I compared his songs to literature...  Maybe a use of unexplained imagery is better compared to a painting.)  Without noticing, you can create an extra song’s worth of content in your mind.  His memoir, Ravens In The Storm, is mostly about the ups and downs of his 1960s activism, but in it he does mention his music – including a comment that his friends would help him understand his own songs.

A small number of his songs do seem dated now, but most stand the test of time perhaps in part due to their tendency to have usergenerated meanings...  I believe that quite a few musicians from a variety of genres might benefit from adding an Oglesby song to their repertoire.  Throw in one of his songs and it’ll stand out as something interesting and different.


So I’d like to present here some of Oglesby’s songs in a way that can help other musicians learn them.  My arrangements include the lyrics and the chords.  Most are designed to be printed on 8½" x 11" paper and are available in PDF and JPG formats.

Years ago I learned a song of his (Le Chinois) on guitar.  Recently I’ve been arranging his songs for fretted dulcimer, so I also include the dulcimer fingering I use.  
Dulcimer players, though, may complain that the numbers I use to notate chord positions are too small.
The purpose of the numbers is to help you learn the fingering for the song.  After using them to practice positions line-by-line, you may need them anymore.  All you’ll likely need to see will be chord names.)

My arrangements often go a bit beyond a simple chord backing.  I try to incorporate some ornamental notes based on the original recordings.  The simplicity of the fretted dulcimer gives me choices to include such ideas from a band in a way that’s distilled to essentials.  Other musicians can translate my ornaments to whatever they play.  (The fretted dulcimer, after all, evolved from a tool used to teach the basics of music.)

At, I have arrangements for other songs.   (More info there about my dulcimer arrangements, including my use of a 4½ fret.)


Vanguard Records released two LPs by Carl Oglesby.  In 1969 the eponymously-titled LP “Carl Oglesby” came out.  His second LP, in 1971, titled “Going To Damascus,” has cover art by Dave Sheridan.

So when the 2003 Italian-released CD which combines these two LPs was made, the title “Carl Oglesby • Going To Damascus” may have seemed logical...  But this has led to some confusion, as the CD sleeve fails to separately list the artist name as “Carl Oglesby. (And although the CD cover is an attempt to combine both LP covers, it looks much more like the “Going To Damascus” LP cover.)  So the CD is often mistakenly thought of as having the title “Going To Damascus.”

The CD disc itself is labeled more clearly.  It has the artist name, and then below that the title is shown as “Carl Oglesby + Going To Damascus.”,disc,text-site.jpg

For clarity, on this site I’ll mostly refer to the separate LP titles.  Where I do refer to the CD title, I’ll use “the CD  Carl Oglesby + Going To Damascus  by Carl Oglesby.”  (I’ll leave to others any question about whether the CD release was properly liscensed from Vanguard.  I don’t think Oglesby himself had concerns about its release.)

Now, to see my arrangements of (and commentary on) some of Carl Oglesby’s songs – as well as YouTube audio links for all his recorded songs – click on songs 1-9 (the LP “Carl Oglesby”) or “songs 10-19 (the LP “Going To Damascus”).
Subpages (3): files songs 10-19 songs 1-9