Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Neil Young By The Book


News of Farm Aid’s annual concert this weekend prompted another look at Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace,  and its collection of musical insights, shout outs to his friends and progress reports on his various causes. It’s got a wealth of anecdotes about his collaborations, his family and friends.

Young’s musical Mt. Rushmore status gives him literary license to write (and ramble) all he wants. It’s also given him the wealth to own ranches, yachts, model trains and vintage Cadillacs and to support causes from The Bridge School to electric cars.

All of which led me back to an old Kris Kristofferson song, "The Pilgrim—Chapter 33:"

He’s a walking contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction

Then sometimes it is best to stop trying to figure out what makes very creative people tick and just enjoy their insights (and music).

For example, in talking about his friendship with Bruce and Bob, he notes that they don’t talk very often, but notes, “It is a silent fraternity of sorts, occupying this space in people’s souls with our music.”

“Dylan’s words are part of the landscape, like country names on a map.”

On musicians writing memoirs: “Writing is very convenient, has a low expense and is a
great way to pass the time. I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn’t know what to do next.”

On saving the album as an art form: “I think it has a future and a past. The album cover and liner notes reached out to the music lover, filling them with images and helping to illuminate the story behind the music, the feeling from the artist.”

“Rock and roll is no cakewalk. It was and is a shrewd and unforgiving business if you made some bad decisions about our representation when you were young.”

For the most part, Neil has avoided most of those traps although his creative control battles have become their own legends. The stories of how his best and worst albums were created will send you deep into your vinyl archives.

And back to the words of the Pilgrim:
He’s a poet…He’s a prophet…He’s a pilgrim…He’s a preacher…
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.


  1. A good visit with Mr. Young. Your use of the Kristofferson lines is an ace!

  2. His music has been part of my life for 45 years. My wife and I listened to 'Harvest' when we were together back in 70, I listened to 'Harvest Moon' with sadness when she passed in 96. And everythiing in between and since, 'Old Ways' is evocative to me now, living in rural Montana and retired.
    He's a icon indeed.