AUK’s Chain Gang: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young “Ohio”

‘Sam Stone’ last week was a casualty of war. The returning hero fought his demons with a cocktail of booze and drugs that in the end finished him off just as he might have perished on the battlefield. Today’s link is about the conflict that killed him, the Vietnam war. ‘Ohio’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is best known for its inclusion on their double live album ‘4 Way Street’ released in 1971. ‘Ohio’ was released as a single in June 1970, a few weeks after the shootings at an anti-war demonstration that left four students dead. Neil Young wrote the song. Together they howl with rage.

By the spring of 1970 the counterculture and ever rising casualty numbers were rattling the authorities. On May 4th a huge demonstration took place at Kent State University, Ohio, protesting against the escalation of the war into Cambodia and the presence of the National Guard on the university campus. In return the guardsmen fired 67 rounds into the crowd killing four and wounding nine demonstrators.

‘Ohio’ marches to a relentless beat of impending catastrophe. Likewise, repetition strengthens the simple lyric. There is a deepening foreboding at the oncoming clash, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/ We’re finally on our own/ This summer, I hear the drumming/  Four dead in Ohio”. The CSN&Y harmonies wail with anger, guitars blaze and Crosby practically breaks down in the fade. “What if you knew her/ And found her dead on the ground/ How can you run when you know?”

The monochrome photos in the clip heighten the song’s deep sense of shock and revulsion.

About Lyndon Bolton 140 Articles
Writing about americana, country, blues, folk and all stops in between
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