Monday, May 4, 2020

Chrissie Hynde Remembers the Kent State Shootings

It's 50 years today since the Kent State shootings, when the National Guard shot 67 bullets at college students, injuring nine and killing four.

A 15-year-old Hynde in her Ohio backyard. 
One student who witnessed the shootings was the 18-year-old Akron native and Tokin' Woman Chrissie Hynde, who went on to move to London, have a kid with Ray Davies, and front her band the Pretenders. She knew the shooting victim Jeff Miller, who was dating a friend of hers.

Hynde describes those "four days in May" in her 2015 memoir, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender. "We were proud that KSU was a recognized 'antiwar' University like Berkeley in California," she writes. "The war was a terrible blight on our certainty that we were making the world a better place—more conscious, more inclusive, more free."

"The real problem was that none of us understood why we were actually in Vietnam. No one seemed to be able to offer a clear explanation. The spread of communism was the reason given," she wrote. "Seemed a little abstract to us pot-smoking peaceniks."

"The draft system was devised in such a way that the offspring of the affluent would never have to got to war," she continues. "The only song I remember that addressed this omission was 'Fortunate Son' by Creedence Clearwater Revival."

After the shootings, Crosby Stills Nash & Young released their single "Ohio."


Hynde writes,"A couple of weeks later on the radio, we heard a new song by Neil Young, "Ohio," about the horrible event. That made us feel better; we needed to be acknowledged. It was a big element in easing us out of shock."

The line, "What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?" from "Ohio" referred to the 20-year-old student Sandy Scheuer, who was walking to class when she was shot. The others killed that day were Bill Schroeder, 19, who was also walking to class and not part of the protest; Allison Krause, 19, and Jeffrey Miller, 20, who were protesting the US Cambodian invasion.

A beautiful online remembrance from Kent State happened at noon today and can still be viewed. It begins with a vocal performance of Stephen Stills' composition "Find The Cost of Freedom" that was the B-side to "Ohio." A bell was rung six times, for the four Kent State students who died and the two killed at Jackson State in Mississippi eleven days later. They were Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, and James Earl Green, 17.

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