Crosby Stills Nash & Young

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On this day in music history: June 4, 1970 - “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills Nash & Young is released. Written by Neil Young, it is the third single credited to the rock quartet. Young is inspired to write the song after seeing photos in the May 15, 1970 issue of Life Magazine of the incident at Kent State University in Ohio. On May 4, 1970, students protesting over the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War and plans announced by then President Richard Nixon to launch an offensive in Cambodia, escalate into a confrontation with the Ohio National Guard who are dispatched to break up the demonstration. When students refuse to stand down and begin throwing rocks and tear gas cannisters back, the guardsmen fire sixty seven live rounds into the crowd to make them disperse. Tragically four students (Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer and William Knox Schroeder) are gunned down in the melee, with nine others being wounded. Of the four people killed, only Miller and Krause were actually participating in the demonstration. Scheuer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders walking to their next classes. Quickly finishing the song, the band record “Ohio” in the number three studio at the Record Plant in Los Angeles on May 21, 1970 live in just a few takes, with bassist Calvin Samuels and drummer John Barbata. The single’s B-side “Find The Cost Of Freedom” written by Stephen Stills is also recorded the same day. “Ohio” is quickly mastered and rush released by Atlantic Records only two weeks after it is recorded. Some US radio stations ban the record, feeling that it is too controversial and outspoken in its criticism of the Nixon administration. However, it does not stop the song from becoming a hit, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1970. Since it is issued as a stand alone single, “Ohio” will not appear on an album until the bands greatest hits album “So Far” in 1974. Though another version is featured on their live album “4-Way Street” in 1971. Over the years, “Ohio” is covered by numerous artists including The Isley Brothers, Paul Weller, The Dandy Warhols, and Ohio natives Devo. Band member (of Devo) Jerry Casale was a student at Kent State at the time of the incident, and knew two of the victims. Crosby, Stills Nash & Young’s version of “Ohio” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2009.