Crosby, Still, Nash & Young released “Ohio” in 1971 during a time of political and social turmoil in the United States.

“4 dead in Ohio” became the recognizable chorus associated with the Vietnam War protests that went wrong at Kent State University on May 4, 1970.

The world still feels the impact of the Kent State Massacre 53 years later.

Kent State Massacre

The news of a US military incursion into Cambodia spread on April 30, 1970. The idea of an increased military presence outside of Vietnam sparked protests across the country, particularly on college campuses.

Violent protests took place near Kent State University in Kent, OH the following day when some participants threw rocks at police officers, looted local businesses, and started fires.

The mayor of Kent reacted by declaring a state of emergency and calling in the Ohio National Guard to monitor any further protests.

Classes at the university resumed on May 4, but another protest took place. Members of the Ohio National Guard, reacting to fear of their own safety in front of the protesters, opened fire on the crowd.

According to the university’s website, conflicting stories exist about the sequence of events and the blame for the massacre. However, the damage was done.

Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder tragically became the four students commemorated by Crosby, Still, Nash & Young. Additional students were wounded.

4 Dead in Ohio

According to The Guardian, the late David Crosby handed Neil Young a copy of Life Magazine just a few weeks after the tragedy.

The vivid magazine photos of the scene at Kent State sparked Young to write the lyrics to “Ohio” with raw emotion and passion.

Gotta’ get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago

The song became extremely controversial as the political tension surrounding the Vietnam War only grew worse.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young became part of the voice of a generation vehemently criticizing the decisions made by President Richard Nixon and the US government.

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
4 dead in Ohio

Memorial in 2023

Kent State remembers the “4 dead in Ohio” each year on May 4.

This year’s memorial events include a commemoration and a moment of silence at 12pm, a candlelight walk and vigil, and a special screening of Kent State: The Real Story in the university’s student center.

“Our goal this year is to celebrate a new era of collaboration around May 4 remembrance, one that embraces the opportunity to elevate the voices of today’s students and make May 4 meaningful to student activists now and in the future,” Roseanne Canfora, the chair of the May 4 Commemoration Committee, told WKYC in Cleveland.

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. America is once again at odds with riots, violent protests, and a sense of political taboo in everyday interaction.

Hopefully, looking back at the Kent State Massacre 53 years later will help America avoid future tragedies.


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