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kent state shootings :: Blog

Rock and Roll and the Vietnam War: 40 Years After Kent State

Thursday, May 6: 4:27 p.m.
Panelists from left to right: Country Joe McDonald, Dr. Lauren Onkey, Dr. Hugo Keesing, Doug Bradley

May 4, 1970 marked the 40th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University, when four students were killed and nine wounded by the Ohio National Guard during student protests of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. As part of the commemorations, the Rock Hall’s Education department put together a panel at KSU on rock and roll and the Vietnam war. There are, of course, rock and roll songs about the Kent State shootings—most famously, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s single “Ohio”/”Find the Cost of Freedom,” recorded just weeks after May 4th. But I wanted to tell a wider story about the role that rock and roll played in our understanding of the Vietnam war, how protestors, soldiers, and civilians made sense of the war and its aftermath through the music. It was, as Samuel Freedman wrote, the first war to be “fought to a rock and roll soundtrack.”  

I spent the afternoon on the KSU campus, listening to the many speakers who came together as part of the commemoration. Speakers included Florence Schroeder, mother of slain student William Schroeder; Russ Miller, brother of slain student Jeffrey Miller; Joe Lewis, a student who was shot and wounded ...


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