When I think of Neil Young I start singing “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house” from the Déjà vu Album of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young but for the past few weeks I have been reading Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young’s autobiography and now I understand that not only did he probably not sing that particular song, but that his real allegiance is to the group Crazy Horse and songs like Heart of Goldand Old Man, Hey, Hey, My, My, The Needle and the Damage Done, Rockin’ in the Free World, Cinnamon Girl, Down By the River, and Cowgirl in the Sand. He wandered south to California after playing with several groups he put together as a very young man in his native Canada. He wandered in one of many, many of the vintage cars he collected and restored throughout his career, once he was able to afford to do so. Today he stores his cars in a huge building on his property that he identifies as Feelgood’s Garage. He goes on and on about a ’53 or ’54 Buick Skylark he once fell in love with and he tells about Cadillac’s and hearses and many other cars he has restored and enjoyed over the years. His love of cars is more endearing than it is irritating.
He loved the song Four Strong Winds, sung by Canadian folksingers Ian and Sylvia, a song I also loved since I heard Ian and Sylvia at a concert at SUNY Potsdam (which is very close to the Canadian border) when I was a Freshman. That alone would make me a fan of Neil Young but, he is a prolific songwriter and I have loved many of his songs and arrangements I also appreciate his voice which is unique and masculine; a good folk, country rocker voice. Neil Young writes quite a bit about his mates in Crazy Horse; Danny Whitten on guitar, Ralph Molina on drums, and Billy Talbot on bass and he spends time thanking them for all the great musical experiences they had together and for their strong friendship. As Neil Young talks his way through his autobiography we see that music was truly his life. He lived with three women, but only was able to make a long term satisfying relationship with his third love Pegi. They have raised three children together, two with disabilities although we get only a few glimpses of Neil Young as a Dad.
In his age, but still active and involved, and still a musician, Neil Young pursues several interesting passions besides his cars and his song writing. He is a model train nut and has a very complete collection of the very best model trains with a dedicated building where they are displayed and used. He’s easy to buy gifts for if you know which train or train car he is coveting for his collection. He also, because of his love of big cars, and because he feels that America, a huge country, will never settle for mini cars, is working on a Lincoln Continental called a Lincvolt that will be electric. He has had his difficulties with this project but it continues. Neil Young has always been a musician who not only wrote music and played music and sang music, but he has been deeply involved with choosing backup musicians he found compatible and sound recording facilities that he felt enhanced the sound of his music. He thanks many of the people who helped manage his recordings and helped him get the kind of sound quality he wanted. He talks a lot about how iTunes is destroying the sound of music and that CD’s are not much better and that he treasures the sounds of the LP’s on which his music was originally recorded and that he feels young listeners are missing the true quality of sound that music once had. So his third project is something called PureTone (later changed to Pono because the PureTone name was unavailable) which will reintroduce the quality of sound that made LP’s so great.
While Neil Young was writing his autobiography he was losing his crew, as one crony after another has died, and he finds himself in a dry period with his song writing which he has experienced at other times in his life and which he feels will eventually lead back to a time of productivity. We will see, I hope. I do not know why I love reading these books which describe the lives of our aging rockers, but I do. Spending time with Neil Young makes me want to spend several days immersing myself in his music, but since I only have them on CD, I am feeling a little bad about all the quality I will be missing, and I do believe that he is correct about this.
You can follow these two links to two of Neil Young’s songs. If you click on the link it will appear in your search box, press the Search button and it will take you to you tube where you can legally listen to the song and watch the video. This is complicated partly by legal ownership issues and I apologize in advance if it doesn’t work. The first song I chose is Harvest Moon and the second is Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World so you could search You Tube for these songs yourself if the links don’t work properly.