"American Masters" to feature Phil Ochs and Cab Calloway in 2012
Published: December 21, 2011 12:22PM
Updated: December 21, 2011 12:22PM


Acclaimed PBS biography series American Masters kicks off its 26th season with music documentaries about folk & protest singer/songwriter Phil Ochs and jazz legend Cab Calloway, who influenced Michael and Janet Jackson as well as many of today's hip-hop artists.

"American Masters Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune" premieres nationally Monday, January 23 on PBS (check local listings). Here's a description:

Explore the iconic 1960s folk-protest music hero's troubled life through his songs and interviews with Joan Baez, Tom Hayden, Sean Penn, Pete Seeger, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ochs, and others. Inspired by both Woody Guthrie and Elvis Presley, Phil Ochs was one of the most politically active singer-songwriter's of his generation and his music is as relevant today as it was then - "I Ain't Marching Anymore," "Power and the Glory," "The War Is Over," and "There But for Fortune." Unyielding in his political principles and unbending in his artistic vision, Ochs tirelessly fought for peace and justice throughout his short life, which ended in suicide at the age of 35. His music continues to influence and inspire topical songwriters around the world, including Pearl Jam, Ani DiFranco, Billy Bragg, and They Might Be Giants, who have all covered Ochs songs.

"American Masters Cab Calloway: Sketches" premieres Monday, February 27, 2012 on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Black History Month. Here's a description:

A singer, dancer and band leader, Cab Calloway was an exceptional figure in the history of jazz, charming audiences with his bravado and showmanship."Minnie the Moocher," with its popular refrain "Hi de hi de hi de ho," was his signature song and Harlem's famous Cotton Club was his home stage. His back-glide dance step inspired Michael Jackson's moonwalk, and his scatting lyrics find their legacy in today's hip-hop and rap. At the top of his game in the jazz and swing eras of the 30s and 40s, Calloway was one of the first black musicians to tour the segregationist South (as early as 1932), and he forever put his personal stamp on "It Ain't Necessarily So" as Sportin' Life in Porgy and Bess. His career flagged in the late 40s, but he was rediscovered in 1980's The Blues Brothers and on Sesame Street, becoming a new cult hero of sorts. Press kit: http://pressroom.pbs.org/Programs/a/AMERICAN-MASTERS/2502-Cab-Calloway.aspx

Both films will stream after their PBS premiere on the American Masters website: http://www.pbs.org/americanmasters