Friday, May 8, 2015

Calendar* Correction: Recording of "Ohio" by CSNY

We just passed the 45-year anniversary of the United States version of China's Tiananmen Square, the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio that resulted in the murder of four youths, on May 4, 1970.  Then-California Governor Ronald Reagan had said three weeks before the incident that student protests should not be tolerated, or in his words "If it takes a bloodbath to end them, then so be it."  Reagan got his bloodbath.

Neil Young wrote the best response to the incident with the song "Ohio", a tale dripping in satiric criticism.  Unfortunately, most of the Internet gets the events leading up to the release of the single wrong.

Some websites claim the band released the single on May 14, 1970.  You already know about the ridiculous song and artist rankings of Rolling Stone, but the magazine claims the song was recorded May 15.  This is physically impossible.  The book Encyclopedia of Great Popular Recordings by Steve Sullivan reports that Neil Young wrote "Ohio" on May 19, while saying the group recorded it on May 15 in the same article--very difficult to record a song if it hasn't been written yet, so that's out. 
Neil Young wrote the lyrics to the song after seeing the story in Life magazine, according to numerous sources, including Time magazine.  That copy of Life magazine was published on May 15 (as you can see from the photo of the Life cover above), making it impossible to read it, write and arrange the song, book a recording studio, and then record it, either on May 14 or May 15.  According to the book Neil Young:  Long May You Run:  The Illustrated History, Updated Edition by Daniel Dudrcholz and Gary Graff, Crosby handed Young a copy of Life.  Neil took out his guitar, and had the song 20 minutes later.  According to album liner notes written by Crosby, the group booked the Record Plant for May 21, and released the song within a week after recording.  The book American Reckoning:  The Vietnam War and Our National Identity by Christian G. Appy confirms that "Ohio" was recorded on May 21. 

Dudrcholz and Graff's book also says that "Ohio" was released on June 4.

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