Today marks the 47th anniversary of the tragic day when four students were murdered in cold blood by National Guard troops on the campus of Kent State in Ohio. Nine more were wounded. Shortly after the tragic event, Neil Young responded with a song that was a scathing indictment of the government’s complicity in the killings. Young then quickly gathered together his colleagues in Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, together with bass player Calvin Samuels and drummer John Barbata, and the group recorded the song at the Record Plant in Los Angeles on May 21, 1970. For maximum impact, the record was quickly mixed and mastered and was released within weeks of the Kent State tragedy. 

Young later said that what happened at Kent State was “probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning.”

The following year the Isley Brothers included “Ohio” on their album Givin’ It Back. The Isleys version was taken at a slower, more ominous pace than the original, opening with a funereal drumbeat and featuring the intense guitar work of Ernie Isley. Their passion is evident as they put their own stamp on Young’s powerful anthem.

May 4, 1970 is a day that should never be forgotten. It was a day that the government of the United States turned its guns on its own citizens. It happened once, and must not be allowed to ever happen again. This year it feels more important than ever to mark the anniversary.

The names of the dead:

Jeffrey Miller – 20 years-old

Allison Krause – 19 years-old

William Schroeder – 19 years-old

Sandra Lee Scheuer – 20 years-old

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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