And It Could Have Been Me

Twenty years after the murders of students at Kent State (May 4) and Jackson State (May 15), in 1970, Holly Near wrote "And It Could Have Me." in 1990. "The song has grown over the years, new verses being added as violence continues to interrupt human potential." Today with Trump as President and a right-wing GOP-cabal in control, the song has new meaning - "it could have been me; But instead it was you; So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two."
Holly Near
Four students were murdered and nine other wounded on My 4, 1870 when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on students protesting the Vietnam War. Mary Ann Vecchio kneels by the body of one of the murdered students.
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When the students at Kent State were killed and then the violence and killings later the next week at Jackson State, I was  doing Hair on Broadway in New York City. Hair was an antiwar musical reflecting the discontent and confusion that invaded society as a result of violence and racism. We protested the Kent murders the evening of May fourth by refusing to sing the finale, “Let the Sun Shine In,” and instead invited the audience to participate in a silent vigil. A few years later, I was invited to write and sing a song for a Kent State memorial at which I joined Ron Kovic, Jane Fonda, Dan Ellsberg, Judy Collins, and many other long-time activists who gathered there. The song has grown over the years, new verses being added as violence continues to interrupt human potential.
 
 
Students in our country, at Kent and Jackson State
Shot down by nameless fire one early day in May
People cried out angry,
“You should have shot more of them down!”
But you can’t bury youth my friend
We grow the whole world round.
 
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can die for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can die for freedom I can too
 
The junta broke the fingers of Victor Jara’s hands
Said to the gentle poet play your guitar now if you can
Victor started singing until they brought his body down
You can kill that man but not his song
Because it’s sung the whole world round
 
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can sing for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can sing for freedom I can too
 
Woman in the jungle so many miles away
Studies late into the night, defends a village in the day
Although her skin is golden like mine will never be
Her song is heard and I know the words
And I’ll sing them till she is free
 
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can live for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can live for freedom I can too
 
One night in Oklahoma, Karen Silkwood died
Because she had some secrets that big companies wanted to hide
There is talk of nuclear safety and talk of national pride
But we all know it is a death machine and that’s why Karen died
 
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can die for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can die for freedom I can too
 
Women shot in Montreal by a man so full of rage
Makes me think of ancient time, back in the Middle Ages
This was not a single incident, this was not a one time tragedy
People all around the world must fight misogyny
 
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can fight for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can fight for freedom I can too
 
The songs of Nicaragua and El Salvador
Will long outlast the singers who face the guns at war
They sing at the line of fire
And they sing from a fire within
All across the land the poets stand
El pueblo unidojamds sera vencido.
And it could have been me
But instead it was you
So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two
I’ll be a student of life, a singer of song
A farmer of food and the righter of wrong
It could have been me but instead it was you
And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through
But if you can die for freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
If you can die for freedom I can too
 
 
Susie Erenrich, editor
Viet Nam Generation, Inc. & Burning Cities Press
Second Edition, 1995
ISBN: 1-885215-04-5
 
This book was originally published as a special issue of Viet Nam Generation: A Journal of Recent History and Contemporary Culture (Volume 2, Number 2) 1990. ISSN: 1042-7597.
 
 
 
 
 
 
New verse to It could Have Been Me. Jan Martinelli (guitar), Amy Boyd and Joshua Dylan Mellars (KRCB)
 
May 4, 2017