Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song)
|Single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young|
|B-side||"Find the Cost of Freedom"|
|Recorded||May 21, 1970|
|Genre||Hard rock, protest song|
|Producer(s)||Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young|
|Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young singles chronology|
"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's "Find the Cost of Freedom", peaking at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 16 in Canada. Although a live version of "Ohio" was included on the group's 1971 double album 4 Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group's compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation albums Decade, released in 1977, and Greatest Hits, released in 2004.
The song also appears on Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.
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."
The record was mastered with the participation of the four principals, rush-released by Atlantic and heard on the radio with only a few weeks' delay (this was despite the group already having their hit song "Teach Your Children" on the charts at the time). In his liner notes for the song on the Decade retrospective, 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." In the fade, Crosby's voice -- with a tone evocative of keening -- can be heard with the words "Four!", "Why?" and "How many more?".
Lyrics and reaction
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. 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 a varying extent for the rest of the decade.
After the single'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 385th Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone in December 2004. In 2009, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
- David Crosby — vocals, rhythm guitar
- Stephen Stills — vocals, guitars
- Graham Nash — vocals, organ
- Neil Young — vocals, guitars
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- RPM Weekly 100, August 22, 1970
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- Neil Young. Decade. (Reprise Records, 1977).
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- "Crosby, Stills & Nash 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' | Classic Tracks |". www.soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
- Lynskey, Dorian (2010-05-06). "Neil Young's Ohio – the greatest protest record". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
- "The History of 'Ohio': Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Raw Reminder of the Kent State Massacre". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
- "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". 2004-12-09. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
- "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
- Neil Young Ohio Lyric Analysis. Accessed on March 26, 2007.