Neil Young is a living legend. The exceedingly influential singer-songwriter, guitarist, and author is an iconic force inspiring generations of musicians and fans with his extensive catalogue of genre bending music.
The Godfather of Grunge is an outspoken activist. When 4 students were killed in a 1970 Vietnam War protest at Kent State University, Young responding with the blistering anthem Ohio. The wordsmith wrote the 9/11 narrative Let’s Roll, a song re-imagining the events of the passenger takedown of high jacked United Flight 93.
In a response to the downgrade of quality from digital MP3s versus vinyl records Young pioneered the Pono music player, and streaming service. “The company is designed to rescue my art form, music, from the degradation in quality that I think is at the heart of the decline of music sales and ultimately music itself in popular culture,” Young said of the company. “My goal is to restore an art form and protect the original art, while serving quality to the music lover.”
With the band Promise of the Real, Young released the concept album The Monsanto Years, taking on the controversial chemical company Monsanto that genetically engineers farm seed.
Young’s music encompasses the realms of folk, country, and rock. Along with his solo work Young has performed with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and his frequent backup band Crazy Horse. Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Nicolette Larson provided vocals for some of his most popular songs. His experimental album Trans features voice distortion, a vocoder, and synthesizers. The project’s themes of computers and communication were inspired by Young’s nonverbal son Ben born with cerebral palsy, and their struggles to understand one another, and how technology offers Ben a voice. Trans was ahead of its time and failed to catch on. In response Young’s angry record label demanded he produce a rock album, so the rebellious Young made with the Shocking Pinks, Everybody’s Rockin’, a 1950s style rockabilly record. In a quest to defy categorization Young followed that up with the county release, Old Ways.
Blazing a path of relevance in every decade since the 1960s, Young gave a bittersweet rendition of Long May You Run, on Conan O’Brien’s last episode hosting the Tonight Show. He is on the board of directors of Farm Aid, and organizes an annual benefit concert for the Bridge School for students with severe speech and physical impairments.
He has documented his life and times, philosophy, and love of cars in the memoirs Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream, and Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars.
The rocker with a heart of gold Neil Young is never afraid to experiment or use his platform for political activism. It comes a time in every life where we must keep on rocking, and fighting for what is important to us. Here are 18 Neil Young quotations to inspire us on our journey for freedom and personal expression.
“As I get older, I get smaller. I see other parts of the world I didn’t see before. Other points of view. I see outside myself more.” – Neil Young
“The ’60s was one of the first times the power of music was used by a generation to bind them together.” – Neil Young
“Live music is better.” – Neil Young
“One new feature or fresh take can change everything.” – Neil Young
“When people start asking you to do the same thing over and over again, that’s when you know you’re way too close to something that you don’t want to be near.” – Neil Young
“When you’re young, you don’t have any experience – you’re charged up, but you’re out of control. And if you’re old and you’re not charged up, then all you have is memories. But if you’re charged and stimulated by what’s going on around you, and you also have experience, you know what to appreciate and what to pass by.” – Neil Young
“If you follow every dream, you might get lost.” – Neil Young
“I respect bands that give me something of themselves that I can feel. (“Posing” bands turn me off generally speaking.) It all has to do with a feeling I have about them. That is what music is to me, a feeling. It’s similar with people too.” – Neil Young
“As soon as you start talking about mystique, you have none.” – Neil Young
“I have so many opinions about everything it just comes out during my music. It’s a battle for me. I try not to be preachy. That’s a real danger.” – Neil Young
“You know, the future’s a huge, gigantic place. I have no idea what’s going on out there, I’m just going to walk into it and see what happens.” – Neil Young
“I dislike what has happened to the quality of the sound of music; there is little depth or feeling left, and people can’t get what they need from listening to music anymore, so it is dying.” – Neil Young
“For whatever you’re doing, for your creative juices, your geography’s got a hell of a lot to do with it. You really have to be in a good place, and then you have to be either on your way there or on your way from there.” – Neil Young
“One good thing about the past is that you can’t change it. So there’s no reason to go back. It’s there. It is what it is. The only thing you can change is right now and what’s happening next.” – Neil Young
“Learning from other people is what music is all about.” – Neil Young
“Corporations don’t have children. They don’t have feelings or souls. They don’t depend on uncontaminated water, clean air, or healthy food to survive. They are beholden to one thing – the bottom line.” – Neil Young
“People who agree with you already agree with you – you don’t change people’s minds.” – Neil Young
“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle for where we’re going. There’s something ahead worth fighting for.” – Neil Young
Author: Tara Collum
Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the co-creator of a forthcoming web serial about twins in a small town. She believes it is never too late to be the person you are meant to be. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun