December 2, 2004

Test Spin: Neil Young

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Listening to Neil Young, it’s hard not to feel a little nostalgic for an era when you weren’t even alive, when folksy songwriters were the voice of an angry youth. When compared with Young’s contemporaries, protesters in current songs such as “Rockin’ in the Free World” are exasperated (“What the hell are we supposed to do?”), yet complacent (“People just shufflin’ their feet). As the classic musical representative of the dissident, he feigns passion for their cause, but we seem to be no match for the energy of the 60s. Those protesters were active, and passionate as chronicled in many of Neil Young’s songs — all we can muster is a feeble whisper when compared to their culture-rattling roar.

Politics aside, Neil Young is a legend for reasons other than his ethereal harmony and no-frills harmonica-and-guitar rock ‘n roll. There are thematic ties in his songs — a sense of nostalgia for home, a lover or a lost friend. Whether his lament meant more in his era I can’t say; I wasn’t there. But listening to Neil Young still makes you want to sit back and sigh, “Man, those were the days,” even if you don’t know exactly which days you’re talking about.

Archived article by Elliot Singer
Sun Staff Writer