50 Years Ago Today: Four Students Were Killed at Kent State, Inspiring “Ohio” and Changing A Generation
Photo by John Paul Filo via The New York Times
50 years ago today, 13 seconds of gunfire rang out at Kent State University.
When the dust settled, the National Guard had injured nine and killed four unarmed student protesters, sparking outrage and grief across America.
The events of May 4, 1970 also galvanized a number of artists into action, namely Neil Young who recorded the protest anthem “Ohio” with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young just two weeks later – on May 21, 1970 – to speak out against the “tin soldiers” who fired on their nation’s own people.
Years later, Young recalled in the liner notes for his Decade release that bandmate David Crosby “cried when we finished this take [of ‘Ohio’].”
From its fearless calling-out of Richard Nixon to its heart-wrenching repetition of “four dead in Ohio,” the song has been immortalized as perhaps the greatest protest anthem ever written.
As explained in The New York Times, “After 50 years, we still don’t know why the guard turned and fired” on the students of Kent State.
And after 50 years, “Ohio” still tries to make sense of the madness.
Listen to the studio recording of “Ohio” and watch Neil Young perform the song live in 1971 below: