Chrissie Hynde Recalls Kent State Killings: ‘I Heard the Shots’
Chrissie Hynde has lived in London for the past 50 years, but she was born in Akron and spent her formative years there.
The Pretenders leader attended the art school at Kent State University for three years and was present on May 4, 1970, when four students, protesting the Vietnam War's expansion into Cambodia, were shot and killed on campus by the Ohio National Guard.
"I was there, I heard the shots," she recently recalled to The Guardian. "I was right in the middle of it, and I knew one of the guys that got killed."
Hynde moved to England three years later and has lived there ever since. Still, she said she likely would have left town regardless of what she saw that day. "Was it a defining moment for me? Well, I already knew I wanted to move on," she explained. "I knew I was never going to finish school, that I was just biding my time."
She also noted that her perspective on those involved in the war — particularly young people who were drafted into service — has changed. "If I'm honest, my lasting thoughts on that whole wider situation is that all of us hippies were conned, in some ways, by the peace and love thing," she said. "During the Vietnam War, there was a draft system, and if you were in university, you didn't get drafted. My dad had been a marine in the war and my parents were hardworking ordinary people. They didn't go to university, but they worked to put me there. All of us who were against the war, we were in the university, but the kids whose parents couldn't put them there were in Vietnam.
"That is what us hippies didn't see. We'd see Green Berets coming back from Vietnam, and we'd be shouting and giving them the finger and everything. Now I'm ashamed of that. Those kids were 19, like me, but they didn't have a choice. Looking back, I realize I was conned and got it wrong. No politician sent their own kids to Vietnam. If they'd had to, they would have thought differently about it."
For the 71-year-old Hynde, the decades have offered the gift of hindsight. "For example, I don't think there's very many things that I know now that I didn't know when I was 16," she said. "But there's a big difference between knowing something and realizing it. Realizing something takes 50 years. I'm more relaxed now if you can believe it. This is the real mellow version of me. Aging is like being a pothead again."