Only if Isbell and Shakey do “Like a Hurricane.”
Happy 74th to arguably one of the most important singer/songwriters of a generation …
August 28, 1968 ~ At the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, overzealous police in riot gear brutally beat protestors who are demonstrating against the Vietnam War. The Doors, Graham Nash and Chicago all write songs about it.
Just a kid and visiting my Big Sis in Wausau, I remember sitting in the living room of her apartment watching the whole scene unfold on TV. It was surreal and still feels like it was yesterday.
The United States National Guard fires on protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students, two of whom weren’t even protesting. Read that over again and let it sink it — The United States National Guard fires on protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four students, two of whom weren’t even protesting. This shameful event in American history leads to the formation of Devo, as Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale are both on campus and horrified by the events.
About 3,500 protesters gather at the university to protest the United States incursion into Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War. Unknown by the protesters however is that Ohio governor Jim Rhodes has stationed a National Guard unit inside a heating plant at the school and has declared martial law, superseding First Amendment rights and making any assembly illegal.
The National Guardsmen emerge and fire tear gas at the protesters. Then they do the unthinkable, raising their rifles and firing into the crowd, killing four students.
One of the protesters is Jerry Casale. “Nobody believed that the guns were actually loaded with live ammo,” he says in a Songfacts interview. “The bullets just went everywhere, it was like a scatter-gun approach, like shooting geese.”
Tin soldiers and Nixon coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio
Casale forms the band Devo with Mark Mothersbaugh, who works in the art department at Kent State. Their ideology is formed by the shooting: Devo stands for “De-Evolution,” the concept that humankind is regressing.
Many songs are inspired by the incident, including the 1970 Genesis track “The Knife” and the 1972 Joe Walsh song “Turn to Stone.” In the Yes song “Long Distance Runaround,” Jon Anderson sings about the event in the second verse:
Cold summer listening
Hot color melting the anger to stone
It’s an expression of one of his fears: “Government cracking down on young people because they were trying to tell the truth about the war in Vietnam.”
Chris Butler is also at Kent State during the shootings, where his good friend Jeffrey Miller is one of those killed. He forms the group The Waitresses, known for “I Know What Boys Like” and the holiday classic “Christmas Wrapping.”
“Kent is completely what influenced my whole life and career,” he says. “When you have that kind of event happen to you, it spins you off in a direction where you can’t abide by the existing system, because it tried to f–king kill you. And you’re going to have to make your own way if you’re at all true to any of the creative parts of yourself.”
In 2014, Butler creates an entire album filled with narration and songs about the shootings called Easy Life.
Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives, https://omeka.library.kent.edu/special-collections/items/show/1420.
CSNY release their second album on April 7, 1971 and it simply should be in your collection.