Neil Young's "Ohio" Is Released On This Day In 1970

May 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

"Ohio" is a protest song and counterculture anthem written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970 and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young…It was released as a single backed with Stephen Stills' "Find the Cost of Freedom"peaking at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100….

 

Young wrote the lyrics to "Ohio" after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine…On the evening that CSN&Y entered Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles… the song had already been rehearsed and the quartet with their new rhythm section of Calvin Samuels and Johnny Barbata recorded it live in just a few takes…During the same session they recorded the single's equally direct B-side...Stephen Stills's ode to the war's dead, "Find the Cost of Freedom"…

 

Young termed the Kent State incident as 'probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning' and reported that "David Crosby cried when we finished this take"…Indeed…Crosby can be heard keening "Four, why? Why did they die?" and "How many more?" in the fade…

 

The lyrics help evoke the turbulent mood of horror…outrage…and shock in the wake of the shootings…especially the line "four dead in Ohio" repeated throughout the song…

 

"Tin soldiers and Nixon coming" refers to the Kent State shootings where Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four students and Young's attribution of their deaths to the President of the United States…Richard Nixon…even though the National Guardsmen had not been federalized and were under orders from the Governor of Ohio…

 

Crosby once stated that Young keeping Nixon's name in the lyrics was "the bravest thing I ever heard"…The American counterculture took the group as its own after this song…giving the four a status as leaders and spokesmen they would enjoy to varying extent for the rest of the decade…

 

After the double's release…it was banned from some AM radio stations because of the challenge to the Nixon Administration in the lyrics…but received airplay on underground FM stations in larger cities and college towns…

Today…the song receives regular airplay on classic rock stations…

 

The song was selected as the 395th Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone in December 2004….

 

In 2009…the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame…!

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