Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song)

"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.[2] 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.[3] Although live versions of "Ohio" and "Find the Cost of Freedom" were 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.

Single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
B-side"Find the Cost of Freedom"
ReleasedJune 1970
RecordedMay 21, 1970
StudioRecord Plant Recording Studios, Hollywood
Songwriter(s)Neil Young
Producer(s)Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young singles chronology
"Teach Your Children"
"Our House"
Audio sample

The song also appears on Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but remained unreleased until 2007.



Young wrote the lyrics to "Ohio" after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine.[4] On the evening that the group 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 (even though the group's hit song "Teach Your Children" was already on the charts at the time). In his liner notes for 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."[5] In the fade, Crosby's voice—with a tone evocative of keening—can be heard with the words "Four!", "Why?" and "How many more?".[6]

According to the liner notes in Greatest Hits, the track was recorded by Bill Halverson on May 21, 1970, at Record Plant Studio 3 in Hollywood.[7]

Lyrics and reception


An article in The Guardian in 2010 describes the song as the "greatest protest record" and "the pinnacle of a very 1960s genre", while also saying "The revolution never came."[8] President Richard Nixon, who is criticized in the song, won a landslide reelection in 1972, which included winning the 1972 United States presidential election in Ohio by a margin of over 21%. 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 Guard officers shot and killed four students during a protest against the Vietnam War. 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.[9]

At the time of the shooting the American public was highly critical of the protestors and blamed them for the violence. This is what the line "What if you knew her? / And found her dead on the ground" was about. Sociology professor David Karen said the importance of the song was that "it didn't let the moment die" and "underlined just how corrupt and awful the government was."[10] After the single's release, it was banned from some AM radio stations including in the state of Ohio, because of the challenge to the Nixon Administration[11] 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 395th Greatest Song of All Time by Rolling Stone in 2010.[12] In 2009, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[13]





Weekly charts

Chart (1970) Peak


Australia KMR[14] 44
Canada RPM Top Singles[15] 16
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[16] 13
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[17] 14
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[18] 14
U.S. Record World Top 100[19] 13

See also



  1. ^ Roberts, David (2015). "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "Ohio". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die. New York: Universe. p. 272.
  2. ^ Gamboa, Glenn. "Neil Young's 'Ohio' captures gravity of event – News". Ohio.com. Archived from the original on 2016-10-14. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  3. ^ "RPM Weekly 100, August 22, 1970". Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2017.
  4. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (2002). Shakey. New York: Anchor Books. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-679-75096-3.
  5. ^ Neil Young. Decade. (Reprise Records, 1977).
  6. ^ "Ohio Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young". Archived from the original on May 13, 2020. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  7. ^ "Crosby, Stills & Nash 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' | Classic Tracks |". www.soundonsound.com. Archived from the original on 2017-10-15. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  8. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (2010-05-06). "Neil Young's Ohio – the greatest protest record". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 2024-05-10. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  9. ^ "The History of 'Ohio': Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Raw Reminder of the Kent State Massacre". Ultimate Classic Rock. 4 May 2015. Archived from the original on 2017-11-30. Retrieved 2017-10-15.
  10. ^ "The Story Behind the Song: The tragedy of Neil Young track 'Ohio' - Far Out Magazine". 4 May 2021. Archived from the original on 25 February 2024. Retrieved 25 February 2024.
  11. ^ Frank Mastropolou (4 May 2015). "50 Years Ago: Kent State Massacre Inspires CSNY's 'Ohio'". Archived from the original on 29 October 2020. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  12. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2004-12-09. Archived from the original on 2008-06-22. Retrieved 2008-04-10.
  13. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". GRAMMY.org. Archived from the original on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^ "RPM Weekly 100, August 1, 1970". Library and Archives Canada. 17 July 2013. Archived from the original on February 2, 2022. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  16. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1970" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on July 4, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  17. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  18. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, August 1, 1970 Archived February 17, 2020, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  19. ^ "RECORD WORLD MAGAZINE: 1942 to 1982". worldradiohistory.com. Archived from the original on 2021-06-08. Retrieved 2020-12-28.