Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ohio, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)

The "Ohio" single

Another 1970 song, you say? Well, it was the year I went off to college, so it's fair to say it's a year fraught with memories. And among songs that were emblematic of the times in which we were living, this one is the mother of them all.

What must it have felt like for these guys to cut this record, transforming their molten fury into this? By most accounts it was accomplished with all deliberate speed, and utterly in the throes of creative energy that could not be denied.

An interview I found on wikipedia with CSNY's sound engineer at the time says, "the mood was just very intense ... I've been around those personalities for a long time, and the four of them take over a room. They are four distinct personalities and any one of the four is quite overpowering and together they're a joy to be with. It's just a hoot to see them interact. And they were bent on getting it right and were on a mission." Perhaps a bit of an understatement?

It's not possible to hear the searing opening riff of Ohio without being hurled emotionally back to that time. I was preparing to graduate from a Columbus, Ohio, high school, where Ohio State was already gripped with unrest. I would be entering a small college that was 16 miles down the road from Kent State just 4 months later. I remember coming home from school, turning on the radio as I usually did, and being accosted with the news of the shootings. Granted, by this time I'd already lived through the assassinations of JFK, Dr. King and Bobby. Gun violence seemed to be what we were becoming known for as a country. Yet my mind reeled. This cannot be happening ...

The lyrics and music of Ohio are as close to a perfect storm of genius as the rock world will ever see.


cornbread hell said...

good stuff. keep it up.

Chris Thompson said...

The song Ohio was all I knew about the place I now call home for sooooo long. Every time I hear it, I think of my Dad. He still cries at the mention of Kent State.

Neil Young's music spans all emotion. Living with War is respectable follow to Ohio, but that it came right after the loving Prairie Wind is a testament to his amazing power as a songwriter.