Straying from the Sunny Side

Neil Young. I really wish it weren’t necessary to comment on this. I wish it hadn’t happened. The overwhelming feeling evoked, seeing the stories about Neil Young’s forthcoming Bush-bashing album, is sadness. When Bruce Springsteen threw his weight publicly behind John F. Kerry in 2004, there was no particular surprise in hearing his own personal politics. What was surprising was that he would in effect subjugate his music to a party political cause; that he would go ahead and willingly alienate those fans who held a different political opinion. Well, I was never that much of a Springsteen fan, so, for me, the pain was limited.

Now Neil Young has basically joined the Barbra Streisand club as well. “I’m a filthy rich entertainer, living in a showbiz bubble, who feels I can tell ordinary American people what they should think about political issues, foreign policy, how to conduct a war, what it means to be an American, and what’s right and wrong.” Thanks, Neil. We really appreciate it.

If this humble website has a theme, and of-course it does, it’s not that Bob Dylan is “right-wing,” since, of-course, he has never and would never declare himself to be such a thing — no more than he has ever declared himself to be “left-wing.” Rather, this site lauds the fact that Dylan’s music can in fact be appreciated and enjoyed by people who do happen to call themselves “right-wing;” contrary to what you would glean by reading characterizations of Dylan’s music in the mainstream media. It is unashamedly a thumb in the eye of those who for decades have perpetuated the lie that Dylan, or his music, is inherently left-wing. Dylan is to be enormously admired for the fact that he never gave in to the temptation to be a “leader,” and to take the laurels that the left would have had him wear, and to subjugate his music to any kind of party politics. The only integrity he’s been interested in is integrity to his art — not to any ideology.

Would that people like Springsteen and Neil Young, who obviously learned so much from Dylan in other ways, had absorbed that lesson as well.

In the end, anything I could say in specific criticism of Neil Young’s new anti-Bush songs would be rendered completely redundant by one thing: perusing the lyrics of those same songs. So, herewith is an extract from Neil’s new song: “Living With War,” exactly as presented on his own website, capitalizations and all.

I’m LIVING WITH WAR everyday

I’m LIVING WITH WAR in my heart everyday

I’m LIVING WITH WAR right now

And when the dawn breaks I see my fellow man

And on the flat screen we kill and we’re killed again

And when the night falls I pray for PEACE (visualize)

I join the multitudes

I raise my hand in PEACE

I never bow to the laws of the thought police

I take a holy vow

To never kill again

To never kill again

I’m LIVING WITH WAR in my heart

I’m LIVING WITH WAR in my heart and my mind

I’m LIVING WITH WAR right now

Don’t take no tidal wave

Don’t take no mass grave

Don’t take no smokin’ gun

To show how the west was won

But when the curtain falls, I pray for PEACE

Try to remember PEACE (visualize)

In the crowded streets

In the big hotels

In the mosques and the doors of the old museum

I take a holy vow

To never kill again

Try to remember PEACE

(… and yes, it goes on)

I’m sure relieved that Neil Young won’t be killing again — I don’t know about you. And as for his stand against the “thought police;” well, what an act of jaw-dropping courage. (And with Dubya’s poll numbers in the 30s too.)

Just reproducing these lyrics like this, I felt like I was doing something almost unspeakably cruel to Mr. Young. And yet, if you’re going to put yourself out there and foist your whimsical political beliefs on people who just want to listen to your rock’n’roll music, then you’ve gotta be prepared to risk the fact that someone might actually pay attention to the words.

Neil: you need help. Maybe you can find a liberal eight-year old somewhere who could write some more persuasive polemic. We’d all sure appreciate it. Thanks, a lot, for making me unable to ever listen to Heart of Gold or Old Man or anything else you’ve ever done without thinking of the above insipid and ludicrous Bush-hating, left-pandering garbage. Yeah, you’ll get some headlines out of this — you already have. Is it really worth it?

It’s just genuinely sad.

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