Kent State Shooting Witness Remembers David Crosby for His Art and Activism
Kent State University Assistant Professor Roseann “Chic” Canfora, who was an eyewitness to the Kent State shootings, is remembering singer David Crosby for his commitment to making sure that the events of May 4, 1970, would always be remembered.
Crosby, founding member of the band Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, died Thursday at age 81.
The band’s song, “Ohio” with its haunting refrain of “four dead in Ohio” has become the unofficial anthem of the Kent State shootings and for student activism then and now. Four Kent State students were killed and nine wounded when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War that day.
Over the years, Crosby had been a frequent visitor to Kent State, and Canfora, whose late brother Alan Canfora was one of the nine wounded, had the opportunity to become his friend.
Even though “Ohio” was written by musician Neil Young, Canfora said Crosby, over the years, became more closely associated with it, always making it the last song he performed during concerts in Kent.
“David was the one who never missed an opportunity to sing it. It was always included in his concerts, and it was particularly special when he sang it in Kent,” she said.
Canfora said Crosby’s music was so integral in the counter-culture movement of the 1960s, and he kept on singing those songs, inspiring new generations of young activists.
“He was a timeless voice for justice and a timeless voice for the truth about Kent State,” she said.
She also praised Crosby for how generous he was with his time, returning often to Kent State to perform.
“More than any musician we connected with, he was more willing, more ready to come and didn’t skip a beat when it came to ‘How do we make this work.’ He was generous with his time for us,” she said.
Crosby performed at the Kent Stage in downtown Kent in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and was planning to return for the 50th anniversary commemoration of May 4, in 2020, until the pandemic happened.
She said Kent Stage owner, Tom Simpson, already was in talks with Crosby’s manager to bring him back to the Kent Stage this spring.
Canfora said she first met Crosby through her close friend, Jim Hart, who penned the screenplay “Ohio.” Crosby and Hart were friends and Crosby had always advocated for the screenplay to be produced as a motion picture, although that has not yet happened.
Crosby, she said, always felt the story of the Kent State shootings was worth re-telling and knew the importance of “the power of artists to remind people of what happened and to continue telling that story.”
In recent years, Crosby had been getting frailer and spoke openly about his age.
“He was very open in private conversations about how much he was aging,” Canfora said, “He would talk very easily about how old he was and say things like, `We’re not going to be here much longer, and we still have so much work to do’,” Canfora recalled. “He is a reminder that we need to stretch our lives out as much as we can.”
In addition to teaching in the School of Media and Journalism, Canfora, Ph.D., serves as a Professional in Residence in President Todd Diacon’s office and the May 4 Presidential Advisory Committee, where she works on planning May 4 commemoration events and related initiatives.
As time notes the passing of more activists from the 1960s and 70s, Canfora said it becomes even more important for those who remain to continue to tell the story as ardently as they can for as long as they can, just as Crosby did.
“He always felt that he had a contribution to make and that the work he did was important and meaningful,” Canfora said. “That is something that I will always cherish about him.”