Digital Classroom: CSNY, "Ohio"
On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen called in to quiet Vietnam War protests taking place at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, fired into a crowd, killing four students. Photographs of the shooting’s aftermath served as the immediate inspiration for Neil Young, who wrote “Ohio." Within weeks of the Kent State shootings, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young—a folk-rock supergroup formed in the late 1960s—had recorded and released the song. Some radio stations refused to play “Ohio” because of its controversial lyrics, but many listeners received the record as an impetus to question the Vietnam War. It has since become one of the most famous protest songs of the 1970s, due in part to the compelling vocal harmonies of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.
Artifact: Letter from Walter Mondale to Graham Nash (1984)
Graham Nash gave candidate Walter Mondale permission to use “Teach Your Children” in television ads promoting Mondale’s platform on arms control during the 1984 United States presidential campaign.
“Sometimes you have to play the game,” Nash says. “Sometimes you have to support politicians….When Walter Mondale asked to use “Teach Your Children” in his political campaign, at first I kind of hesitated, and then I realized that I agreed with most of what he was proposing….I think he had a good heart, a good brain and a good spirit, and I wanted to support him. I gave him permission to use “Teach Your Children,” and I’m glad I did.”
Describe what you see.
What do you observe?
- What does this letter reveal about the relationship between rock and politics? Can you name other songs that have a connection to political campaigns?
- Mondale used “Teach Your Children” to raise awareness of the dangers of nuclear war. Do you see this message represented in the lyrics? Why or why not?
- Think of songs that you can connect to political issues important to us today. How do these messages reflect our world now? What viewpoints are represented?
Infographic: Folk Influences on Rock Vocals
The folk revival movement of the 1960s looked to past musicians such as the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and subsequently had a tremendous sonic and lyrical influence on rock and roll well into today.
Learn what a "supergroup" is and see how Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young became one!