Neil Young's 'Ohio': "the most evocative pop-culture response to a defining moment in American history"
"They were about to walk out on stage and were spending a moment warming up."
Photo by Henry Diltz
Next week marks the 40th Anniversary of the tragedy of the Kent State Massacre.
And. We're. Still. Living. With. War.
Immediately after the Kent State shooting on May 4, 1970, Neil Young composed the song "Ohio" after looking at photos appearing in Life magazine and then taking a walk in the woods. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young went to the studio and recorded the song which was released to radio stations shortly after the killings.
A rather significant article in today's The Cleveland (Ohio) Plain Dealer "Neil Young's 'Ohio' evokes strong images of May 4, 1970 shootings at Kent State" by Mark Dawidziak:
It was more than just another protest song.
Ohio was a cry of anguish, penned by Neil Young after seeing pictures taken at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.
But 40 years after members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on college students, Young's "Ohio" remains the most evocative pop-culture response to a defining moment in American history.
"This is an event that now is in every history book," said Carole A. Barbato, a Kent State University professor of communication studies who team-teaches a course on May 4. "Wherever you live, even though your environment obviously shapes how you perceive things, you're probably as aware of the shootings at Kent State as those of us in Northeast Ohio. And even though this still would be in the history books, the pop culture certainly does perpetuate that. "Ohio" was entering the pop-culture consciousness within three weeks of the shootings.
"It was the quickest and best reaction to Kent State, with Neil Young acting as 50 percent songwriter and 50 percent journalist," said David Bianculli, a pop-culture historian who teaches at Rowan University and regularly contributes to NPR's "Fresh Air."
"I'll tell you what that song meant," said Bianculli, author of the recently published "Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." "After the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, you felt kind of helpless as a young person. It seemed that when someone had your voice, that voice was silenced, usually by violence.
"Then you have Kent State, and college kids are actually fired upon. And when you just might start to be thinking, you don't dare have a voice or there is no voice, from the radio comes this voice of solidarity and outrage. It wasn't just a pop song."
"After 1970, that doesn't happen again. It didn't need to happen again, mostly because it didn't need to happen there. And that's what Neil Young's song spoke to."
Thanks Ken D.
More on Neil Young composed song "Ohio" performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY).
Timeline of Events Leading up to May 4, 1970:
UPDATE: From Montreal Gazette: Next Chapter: The boomer generation and beyond by Michael Shenker:
It was an image that would mark my generation. It came to symbolize the deep and sometimes ugly chasm in America during the Vietnam War, and for one side of the divide, it came to symbolize all that was wrong with the country. Kent State was the rallying cry. Neil Young could have written the caption for that picture – “This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio” – when he penned the words to “Ohio” just weeks later. Kent State and Vietnam, Nixon and Agnew. And Trudeau.
Thanks to him, Americans of draft age had another option besides going to war or going to jail.