Mother Jones-The massacre that inspired a musical revolution

John A Imani

(JAI-Not so much as a tout for the article as it is to broach a subject sorely missing from our movement's state of affairs as is and discussion thereof.  But in consonance, with the idea in the subject line, stands the abject lack of anything resembling the culture, the 'counterculture', of the 1950's through the 1960's that hot-housed the movements of those times.  Will leave it to readers' own fill-in-the-blank remembrances of Jimi and Joni and Janis and the Johns.)

It's the best day of the year for social media–addicted music streaming service users who can't remember who their favorite artists are: Spotify Wrapped release day.

For those unfamiliar, instead of allowing people to access their listening data at any time, Spotify waits until the end of the year to give users a rundown of their most listened-to artists and songs. People then share their results on social media. I am not immune to this phenomenon. If you're curious, my top artists for 2022 were Big Thief, Elliott Smith, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Kate Bush, in that order.

That list is lacking Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, who no longer put their music on Spotify. Young has been on my mind recently: As I read about the ongoing protests in Iran and China, I thought of "Ohio," the protest song put out by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in response to the Kent State massacre, when the Ohio National Guard killed four Vietnam War student protesters in 1970. The shooting sparked national outrage and inspired dozens of songs, and also, as I learned from the incident's Wikipedia page, left a lasting impression on several key figures in the 1970s and '80s new wave movement.

Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of the Pretenders (and the artist behind a pretty kickass album of Bob Dylan covers, if that's your thing), was a student at Kent State at the time and witnessed the massacre. Also present were Devo's Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis, whose interest in the concept of "de-evolution" grew after they saw their classmates killed. "I don’t think I would have started Devo had that not happened,” Casale told the Washington Post

It's hard to conceive of any positive results of such a shocking act of violence, but young people throughout the area channeled their trauma into a burgeoning avant-garde music scene in Akron, Ohio, giving us songs like "Whip It" and "My City Was Gone." With the holidays coming up, give a listen to the Pretenders' "2,000 Miles," one of the few Christmas songs I can stand.

Abigail Weinberg