In sp!ked, Patrick Hayes reviews Neil Young’s new book, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream.
Neil Young, the man who penned wistful lyrics about silver spaceships flying and about sleeping with Pocahontas, is, he openly admits in his autobiography, ‘a material guy’. After completing a project, he would ‘buy a car or something to celebrate’. He lavishes praise on Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company. He gushes about the disruptive nature of new technologies. And he speaks romantically about developing business plans and navigating ‘the waters of venture capitalism’. When raving about being able to buy a green card to live in the US, Young even goes as far as to announce: ‘Capitalism rocks.’
In fact recently, he tells us, he has been dreaming more. Since his life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2005, when he decided to ditch his various narcotics, he dreams ‘every night, not like before, when I induced dreams in the waking hours to snatch them in their innocence and commit them to song and melody and words captured’.
While he has far from quit songwriting, kicking the drink and drugs has given Young a new sense of mission, something that makes him feel alive – in fact, a mission that makes him question whether he has ‘been asleep’ over the past 40 years. Young is currently ‘trying to rescue recorded sound so people can feel music again’. While a huge fan of the internet, Young has become increasingly infuriated that current methods of reproducing music digitally keep very little of the quality of the original. But he is never one to sit back and moan about how things were better in the days of vinyl. He has instead become obsessed with finding a solution.
And, with additional time due to a broken little toe, he also decided to tick another box by following in the footsteps of his father, famous Canadian author Scott Young, by writing a book. In this instance, an autobiography, with a second book tentatively titled Cars and Dogs planned, but ‘no matter how many books I write, I will eventually get to fiction’. He comments on the ease of writing: ‘No wonder my dad did this… writing could be just the ticket to a more relaxed life with fewer pressures and more time to enjoy with my family and friends – and paddleboarding!’