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Posts Tagged ‘Crosby Stills Nash and Young’

 (Above: Neil Young leads Crosby, Still and Nash through “Ohio” during the CSNY2K tour stop in Toronto.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Several years ago, my dad and I drove out to Canton, Ohio to witness Hank Stram and Marcus Allen – two of our favorite Kansas City Chiefs – be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since the activities were spread out over several days, we frequently had time to kill each night. One evening we saw Quiet Riot at the local fairgrounds. Another night we decided to drive an hour or so north and walk around the Kent State University grounds.

As we strolled around the campus, the emotions of that day – 40 years ago yesterday, came flooding back to my dad. He remembered hearing the news and seeing the photos for the first time, his anguish at the senseless loss of life and anger at the government cover-up.

Although my dad hated the war in Vietnam, he easily could have been on either side of this conflict. As a college student, he had no problem seeing himself amongst the protesters. But he also joined the National Guard to avoid being drafted, and could just as easily been holding a rifle. Dad’s unit was given riot training, and he was frequently the designated heckler. He remembers a couple of his fellow soldiers nearly snapped during the simulations. That’s all it would have taken, he says.

Sadly, the shootings at Kent State were not an isolated incident. Ten days later, two more students were killed in a similar skirmish at Jackson State University.

Emotions were fresh in my dad, but I was trying to remember nearly forgotten history lessons as we walked the deserted campus at dusk. We tried to piece together where the events may have happened. We found the memorial, but it was frustratingly incomplete. The names of the fallen were absent, as was anything to place the memorial in historical perspective. Once again, good intentions had been killed in committee.

Four dead in Ohio. How many, how many more?

We were walking back to the car when we finally found the memorials. Frequently, university parking spaces are blocked off for loading, traffic flow or some other purpose. At first glance, we thought the low, lighted cement pylons scattered throughout the lot were standard parking barriers. As we approached the car, however, we noticed they outlined several low, pyramidal plaques set into the blacktop. These inconspicuous shrines marked the final steps of the fallen. And to think I almost dinged one when opening the car door.

To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, they paved a historical site, put up a parking lot. I know it was a parking lot on May 4, 1970. And, yes, I recognize the scarcity of public parking on college campuses. But the fallen deserved better and Kent State should be ashamed of trying to tiptoe around history. It’s hard to believe we’re still scared of what happened nearly two generations later.

At least back then you could get a song like “Ohio” on the radio. Neil Young penned his response to the killings after viewing photos of the incident in Life magazine. The song hit the airwaves in June, 1970, the same month Edwin Starr’s “War” topped the charts. Try to imagine either song cracking Entercom’s bland, corporate playlist today. Our corporate overlords have no problem challenging the listeners’ moral sensibilities with racy (hetro)sexual lyrics, but are petrified of offending them politically. One need only look at the list of songs banned by Clear Channel in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks for proof.

Young cut the tune with his buddies David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. It took four years for the song to make it onto a proper album, CSNY’s stop-gap compilation “So Far.” I didn’t discover it until I picked up the two-disc Young anthology “Decade” in high school. I knew the song’s history, and respected its energy, but didn’t mean much to me beyond that until I heard it performed in concert.

The CSNY2K concert at Kemper Arena in 2000 was one of the worst shows I have attended. Our overpriced seats were a mile away. What little energy the performances had was lost long before the sound reached our little peanut gallery. Everyone seemed to be going through the motions. Stills was clearly burned out by having to play “Love the One You’re With” yet again, and Nash looked positively lost as the band tore into “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Despite the overall malaise of the night, there were two bright spots. Young’s solo take on “After the Gold Rush” performed on a creaky pump organ while Crosby and Nash added harmony vocals was transcendent. Then there was “Ohio.” The lyrics took on new meaning as footage from the day flashed on the screens surrounding the band, but what got me was Crosby’s cries of “How many? How many more?” The pain was still fresh in his voice and his chilling refrain gave me goose bumps. Ten years later, I still can’t listen to the song without thinking of that moment.

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Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

(Above: Woodstock Festival organizer Michael Lang’s hand-drawn layout of the festival grounds. The drawing is part of a new exhibit celebrating the 40th anniversary of Woodstock at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. All photos courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.)

By Joel Francis

The enduring image of Woodstock is iconic: a fringed performer – Jimi Hendrix, Roger Daltrey, David Crosby or Sly Stone – onstage, in front of a staggering mass of people. But how did the performers get to the stage, and where do all the fans answer nature’s call?

“Woodstock: The 40th Anniversary,” a new exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, sheds light on the logistical side of America’s first and greatest rock festival.

“One of the things that interested me the most in putting this exhibit together was just seeing what went into planning of the festival,” said Jim Henke, chief curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “There was a massive amount of planning involved, and a lot of it had to be done at the last minute because the city fathers of Wakill, N.Y. didn’t want that many people to descend on them and made the organizers move the site.”

Festival organizer Michael Lang didn’t get much rest in the weeks leading up to the Woodstock and as evidenced in the “Woodstock” film, Lang had his hands full throughout the event as well. Lang made quite the statement on film making several last-minute arrangements, deals and accommodations in a hand-designed leather vest, also fringed, of course. The vest is just one of several items Lang loaned to the hall for the exhibit.

“Lang’s vest is still in decent shape today,” Henke said. “I’m sure he didn’t get any sleep during that period, but it seems like for whatever reason he was able to keep it together.”

Other clothing in the exhibit includes the tie-dyed cape and jacket John Sebastian wore during his five-song set, and the spectacles Robbie Robertson wore during The Band’s performance.

Rock & Roll Hall Of FameSurrounding the garments is the contract Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s performance contract, drawings and layouts of the festival grounds, Lang’s handwritten management and operations plan, and an early press release stating the original location of Wallkill and that “Woodstock does not figure on gate crashers.”

“One of the more interesting items we have is a letter from Apple offering the services of James Taylor and Billy Preston for Woodstock,” Henke said. “It turned out Lang and the others didn’t get it in time, so no one appeared.

The letter offered the services of the Plastic Ono Band, which it described as “a series of plastic cylinders incorporated around a stereo sound system.”

“The letter didn’t say John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band,” Henke said, “so I’m not sure if he would have been there or not. I do know Lennon played the Live Peace festival in Toronto a month later, so it could have been a possibility.”

“Woodstock: The 40th Anniversary” appears in the museum’s Ahmet M. Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall through November. The museum will be showing an edited version of the restored Woodstock film in the theater adjacent to the exhibit.

“In addition to having an amazing musical lineup, Woodstock was also the culmination of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the peace and love movement. It was a natural merger that pushed them of being underground movements,” Henke said. “For some of our visitors, this exhibit will bring back memories. The younger audience may not know as much going in, but hopefully they will learn how one of the seminal moments in rock and roll history came about.”

For museum hours and ticket and general information, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Website.

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