NEIL YOUNG - The unbending one

22. October 2015

Neil Young

NEIL YOUNG - The unbending one

In the September issue we also discussed his campaign against the seed giant Monsanto. But Neil Young has already changed the battlefield again. His latest skirmish is with Donald Trump. The US billionaire and arch-conservative presidential candidate had got himself into Young's trouble for running his song "Rockin' In The Free World" during the public announcement of his candidacy - quite legally, as the businessman tweeted with pleasure: His office had acquired the rights of use for one day at ASCAP, comparable to GEMA in Germany. Trump also distributed a photo via the Internet showing him together with the controversial Canadian: A few months ago Young had auditioned Pono at the real estate tycoon for financial support for his online music service and had himself photographed with him. Music is a universal language, he wrote in Trump's family book, and he wouldn't mind if people who didn't share his convictions thought his songs were good: "But if I were asked for permission, I would never make one of my songs available to a candidate." By the way, he is Canadian and therefore does not vote at all in the United States: "But what is much more important: I don't like the political system in the USA and in some other countries at all." However, he supports Democrat Ben Sander's candidacy and, contrary to his statement a few days earlier, allowed him to use "Rockin' In The Free World" during a political event - one of the surprising pirouettes Young has performed during his long career.

But they will always forgive him by his followers, because they cannot distract from the fact that since the sixties he sings as an upright knight Neil against the injustices of this world. The Buffalo Springfield title "For What It's Worth", inspired by the arrest of young demonstrators in Los Angeles, was written by Stephen Stills; in 1970 Young thematized "Ohio," an incident in which the state National Guard killed four unarmed students at Kent State University on May 4 of the same year and seriously injured nine others. Although the unit was not under the command of the US government but under that of the Governor of Ohio, Young wrote the line "Tin soldiers and Nixon are coming" - with the result that many radio stations took the single recorded with Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash off the program. They could of course not prevent the title from reaching the top 20 of the billboard charts by boycotting it. Crosby later stressed in an interview that Young's insistence on the Nixon line in "Ohio" was "one of the most courageous decisions" he had ever heard of.

Alabama on my mind

Musical statements on political, social and environmental themes run like a red thread through the work of this complex artistic personality. And Young has always polarized with delight. With the number "Alabama" by "Harvest", for example, which is often sorted into pop records, he denounced the practice of racial segregation in the southern states. Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd responded (and to Young's "Southern Man") with the patriotic song "Sweet Home Alabama", which didn't stop Young from playing the title on stage from time to time, while on the other hand members of Lynyrd Skynyrd performed with Young tour shirts. He hammered the "Vampire Blues" on "Out On The Beach" (1974), the middle album of the "Ditch Trilogy" (for example: Trilogy to the ton kloppen; because of their modest commercial success also included "Time Fades Away" and "Tonight's The Night"), already in 1974 the oil industry around the ears. It's a seemingly endless series that goes all the way to "The Monsanto Years" and certainly doesn't end here: When he's angry, a Neil Young stops at nothing and no one!

And that's not uncommon: George W. Bush, who led the USA into the second Iraq war and who seemed completely overwhelmed with an adequate reaction to the devastating consequences of hurricane "Katrina" in New Orleans, wished in 2006 with "Let's Impeach The President" to be removed from office. The whole album "Living With War" became a reckoning with the politics of the then US president. Young, who considers the texts to be non-partisan, stressed: "If you kick Bush out, you're doing the Republicans a big favor; they could continue with pride." In the same interview with the New York Times, he regretted that there were no young artists in the States who had songs about US politics in their repertoire: "I don't see anyone, so I sang the song myself. I waited as long as I could." The album, to which newspaper photos of wounded US soldiers had driven him on the transport to Germany and which was in the box within a month, he concluded with the patriotic "America The Beautiful". The fact that he put every song on which he had finished his work online before "Living With War" was completely finished and available shows how much he was concerned about the subject - allegedly bursting into tears at the sight of the photos.

"Irresponsible utterances."

Compared to Bush's father ("sometimes I like him, sometimes not") and his predecessor in the presidency, Ronald Reagan, Young was more reserved, not to say more friendly. He had never been a supporter of Reagan, but had considered some of his ideas to be right - for example his call for people in communities and neighborhoods to unite to achieve their goals and not to rely so much on the government. On the other hand: "Reagan has done terrible things, such as creating huge rocket and warhead arsenals. No one needs them."

The Broken Arrow Ranch from Ontario, named after a song by Buffalo Springfield, is a man from California who vehemently fights against the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas. He compared their effects on the environment with the consequences of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima; the carbon dioxide emissions as a by-product of the oil drilling were as high as the total of all cars registered in Canada, he complained. Criticism from the petroleum industry that Young's remarks were irresponsible, he countered with his title "Who's Going To Stand Up?" and the lines "Ban fossil fuel and draw the line/Before we build one more pipeline" - words he chooses in a similar way for public speeches on this topic. Young also does not stop at the government of his native country: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is only embarrassing and "a poor copy of the George Bush administration". And also the current US President got his fat off last year: Barack Obama must be removed from office because he allowed fracking, the controversial method of searching for natural gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico, and because he had not fulfilled his environmental promises from his election campaigns at all: "Hello, Barack! Wake up, mate!"

Lesen Sie mehr im eclipsed Nr. 175 (November 2015).