If you’ve never wondered what it might be like to hang out with Neil Young, then this book might not be for you. But since I have a weakness for memoirs by accomplished people—particularly when they write without a ghost writer—and since I’m a fan of Neil Young’s music, I was curious to know more about him.
You can tell Neil wrote this himself. About 120 pages into it, he remarks: “I have only rewritten about one paragraph so far.” This book is full of musing, oddly fascinating reflections. He mentions several times that he has quit drinking and smoking (i.e., smoking weed), that he has never written a song when he wasn’t high, and that he’s not sure if he will be able to write any songs without getting high. Which begs the question: How is he able to write this book, then? He doesn’t spend much time on that question, however, and I suspect that he views memoir-writing more as an exercise in conversation with an imagined audience. Indeed, on the same page where he reveals he’s not much of a reviser, he writes, “As you can tell, if you are still with me…” The flow is highly conversational, and although he meanders all over the place, from trains to cars to music to family to death, it’s not hard to follow his train of thought.
Although he rambles, his prose is clear, and the pacing is remarkable in that just when you think, OK, I’ve had enough of this discourse on cars, he shifts gears (no pun intended) and tells the story of how, for example, he wrote the song “Ohio.” He saw the coverage of the Kent State tragedy on TV and was “So full of this feeling of disbelief and sadness. I picked up my guitar and started to play some chords and immediately wrote “Ohio”; four dead in Ohio. The next day, we went into the studio in LA and cut the song. Before a week had passed it was all over the radio.”
Such moments make you think of the impact that we can have as individuals. And like Waging Heavy Peace, that’s worth chewing on.