Sunday, 4 May 2014

I Learned More From A Three Minute Record Than I Ever Did In School

A redux from RFYP, 2007.   Lest we forget.
Above: "Probably the most important lesson ever learned at an American place of learning" - Neil Young

Don’t ever be fooled into believing rock and roll is good for nothing. Music opened Mountjoy’s mind, and educated me on a universe of subjects I might never have known about. One of the first songs that enlightened me was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Ohio. Carried by a haunting guitar wail, the simple lyrics suit the anguished cry of Young’s voice to a tee:

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,

We're finally on our own.

This summer I hear the drumming,

Four dead in Ohio.

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago.

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground

How can you run when you know?

If you don’t know the back-story, the song is about an event that occurred 27 34 years ago today, when four students who were anti-war protesters at Kent State University were gunned down by members of The National Guard. The closest victim was almost 100m from the guardsmen, and was unarmed. No one was ever charged, and no one ever took responsibility. The image of Mary Ann Vecchio, a fourteen-year-old runaway and Vietnam War protester, screaming with anguish and kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller, that illustrates this post, won a Pulitzer prize and is one of a handful of 70’s era photographs that have become iconic symbols of the time.

Apparently written by Neil Young within weeks of the incident, the song fades out to David Crosby’s nasal howls of “Why?” and “How many more?”

Almost three decades later, The West is at war again. Thankfully this time, the students who choose to protest this action are, we should hope, safer than the four causalities from Kent State. Here are their names, lest they remain anonymous:

It could be argued that Neil Young was just cashing in on the incident, but I believe there is enough pain and emotion on hand to nix that theory. And in the end, his work has made millions of people around the world that would otherwise never have known aware of what happened on that May afternoon in Ohio. If you are too young to remember the song, you are probably old enough to go to war. That alone is reason enough for you to go and listen to it today.