Graham Nash Explains How a National Tragedy Cost CSNY a Hit Single
Nash tells Q104.3 New York's Ken Dashow on the Beatles Revolution podcast that his song "Teach Your Children" had just been released as a single and was climbing in the Top 30 when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of unarmed Vietnam War protesters at Kent State University, killing four.
Within days of the tragedy, Neil Young wrote one of his most iconic songs: "Ohio."
Nash recalls getting a call from David Crosby in the wake of the Kent State news telling him to book the studio in Los Angeles for the following day. He says the group got together and recorded "Ohio" and its B-side, "Find the Cost of Freedom," in just a couple of hours total.
They mixed the songs and sent them to Ahmet Ertegun, from Atlantic Records, instructing him to release the single immediately.
"And he did [release it immediately], even though he had to say as a record man, 'Are you sure you want to do this? You've got a hit already going up,'" Nash says.
"But we thought it was way more important to tell American people that we are killing our own children for their God-given right to protest what their government is doing in their name...And when those students went to school to protest, they ended up dead. And we thought it was more important to let people know that than for us to have another hit record."
"Teach Your Children" peaked at #16 that year, while the album it was on, Déjà Vu, eventually made it to #1 in 1970.
"Ohio" made it to #14 on the singles charts in 1970. It was in the set for the band's 1971 live album, Four Way Street, which hit #1 on the U.S. album charts. It was also included on CSNY's 1974 compilation album, So Far, which also hit #1.