Sunday, July 11, 2004

Neil Young Keeps On Rockin' In the Free World

To pre-1978 me, Neil Young was simply the Y in old CSNY songs, and the annoying voice in such annoying songs as "After the Gold Rush" and "Heart of Gold." Those are the songs that got St. Louis radio play back then, and I was not a fan, much preferring the more approachable songs of soft-rock favorites like Billy Joel and James Taylor. What can I say? I may have been the first "emo" high school student, or I may have just been a wimp. (Perhaps the past tense is wrong - I still enjoy some of the great ones, like Captain Jack or Fire and Rain.)

In 1978, I went away to college, and a friend introduced me to the real Neil Young. Amazingly powerful guitar with lyrics that bristled with passion and engagement, I found myself cranking "Southern Man", "Walk On", and "Helpless" with abandon. The songs of Neil Young provide a raucous soundtrack of a time when I learned a lot about myself and others.

To hear Neil's amazingly prescient "Rockin' in the Free World" at the close of Fahrenheit 9-11 was, for me, the most powerful part of the movie. It reminded me of college days, and how much people cared and thought and discussed the issues of the day, in long conversations into the night. At Union College, I was chair of "Intellectual Cabaret", where we would have speakers come in and debate issues such as "What is Art" or "Evolution", and we would fill the coffee house with people who wanted to participate (or who wanted the free beer and pretzels).

My point in this rambling reminiscence? Neil Young has been an alert, passionate and urgent voice for decades. A dozen years before 9-11, he sang out:

"But there's a warnin' sign on the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin' we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan, but I am to them
So I try to forget it, any way I can.
"

Go get the album - Freedom. While you're at it, you ought to pick up Tonight's the Night and Live Rust. Crank 'em.

10 Comments:

Blogger Thrasher said...

Hi Dan,

Nice blog. I'll add a link on my next update.

Yeah, Rockin in The Free Wolrd is incredily prophetic. Glad you picked on that from the analysis.

Only wish we'd be able to tune into that long before 9/11....

Keep on Rockin,
Thrasher
http://thrashersblog.blogspot.com

7/31/2004 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A band that we're friends with covers this song, and it's awesome. At a Freedom Rally last weekend that honors POWs and MIAs from all wars, they wrote in another verse, that tore the house down.

We got a thousand points of light
for the soldier man
Left behind
in a foreign land
When he gets to heaven, St. Peter he will tell
Reporting for duty, I've done my time in hell
A sacrifice for a country that forgot about me
But I'd do it all again
To keep them all free.

We can't expound upon the fallacies of government without remembering the men and women who died so that we can continue to elect them. Keep that in mind.

7/07/2005 10:17 AM  
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