Protest Song From Ferguson, Missouri Recalls "Ohio" and Neil Young"s Account of Kent State

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In the wake of the death of Michael Brown and the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri, a young rapper recorded Be Free.
The song has quickly become an internet hit, according to Billboard.
Written by J.
Cole, the song not only pertains to Michael Brown, but also to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
"It ain't no gun they can make that could kill my soul," Cole sings in a middle verse.
"Everytime I step outside I see my (friends) down.
" Because the song was spreading rapidly via the internet, it eventually earned an article in The New York Times.
Ben Sisario described the track's popularity in a story in the August 16, 2014 issue.
"J.
Cole's protest song spread around the world in a matter of hours just after the death of Michael Brown," Sisario stated.
"In 1970, it took a few weeks for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to record and release the song Ohio in response to the shooting of unarmed college students at Kent State University.
" Whereas Ohio has endured as a rock classic for over forty years, J.
Cole's Be Free will likely disappear from consciousness as quickly as quickly as its popularity ascended.
It is really a shame, too, since it has a much better message than that of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song.
By even a cursory examination of the lyrics, Ohio offers very little insight or even a statement.
In fact, the entire song consists of a mere 47 words.
Its only verse, repeated several times (as if Neil Young knew so little about the Kent State shootings that he could think of nothing deeper), opens with obvious misinformation.
He warns that "Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming," even though the President was not responsible for the military action.
Ohio Governor James Rhodes was the leader who ordered the National Guard to oversee the protest at Kent State, not Nixon.
The bridge, repeated several times like the lone verse, is too obscure to make a clear statement about the tragedy.
Young whines that we "Gotta get down to it," but he offers no antecedent for the pronoun.
What is "it" we must get down to? His point that "Soldiers are gunning us down" is a highlight of the song, which he quickly spoils by adding in the next line that "Should have been done long ago.
" Again, he fails to offer a reference for what should have been done, which according to the previous line would have been the bullets being fired at students.
The questions asked to close out the lyrics seem equally inane, as Young asks "What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground?" One would hope that, whether the shooting victim be known or not, her death would be tragic.
For the second part of the question, Young's point again becomes confusing because of his omission of an antecedent.
He asks, "How can you run when you know?" but even here at the song's very end no one can be certain what it is "you know" about the Kent State event.
In spite of the brief and obfuscate lyrics, Ohio has maintained its place among the most popular songs from the late 60s and early 70s.
Its longevity is a result of its association among baby boomers with the tragedy, as well as a testament to the musical and harmonic talents of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
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