Friday, October 5, 2007

Music and Memory, Part 2: Neil Young


I had a friend long ago who once said that she wished Neil Young were her dad. While such a wish strikes me as misguided at best, my own opinion about Young has progressed from indifference to a respect that borders on awe. I first discovered his music while babysitting for hippies in the late 1970s. At that time, I was more attracted by the gorgeous harmonizing of his colleagues Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Young's quasi-tuneless, mournful, boyishly fragile voice and alternately morose and bitter songwriting seemed to me hallmarks of guy music, which didn't interest me as a rule; I preferred Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Phoebe Snow. But I recall riding on a city bus around that time and witnessing an older teen vandalizing the seat-back ahead of her with the iconic words: "Oh to live on sugar mountain, with the barkers and the colored balloons." The pathos of this scene touched and unnerved me,leaving me wondering if the adulthood I so longed for would leave me with a broken sense of longing (it has).

As a professional longhair with a limited amount of spare time, I'm pretty well out of touch with current pop culture, and I haven't heard Young's latest two albums. However, the shaky voice, seemingly without overtones, and the despairing songs of the 1970s-era Neil Young are so full of human loneliness and a kind of existential resignation to the uncontrollable strangeness and suffering of life that they resonate powerfully in my heart and memory.

8 comments:

wheyface said...

hello!
I wasn't too keen on Neil Young when I first listened to him in my early 20s. But I've changed my mind.

Pentimento said...

Hi wheyface! I am chuffed that you're here!

wheyface said...

Reading your blog reminds me of your voice and the conversations we had.

Pentimento said...

I'm so glad you're reading it! We probably didn't discuss Neil Young though . . . : )

Maclin Horton said...

Very interesting blog (I'm here via The Dawn Patrol). I'll be back. Perhaps you would enjoy my recent review of one of Neil's classics.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, maclin. I'm starting to think that Neil is underrated, if that's possible.

Tertium Quid said...

I love Neil Young too.

Not long ago I was working late and found this on YouTube. I sent it to my wife.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQXnvNwGTAY

Pentimento said...

tertium quid, thanks for the link; it was beautiful. You can really hear the musical aesthetic that he shares with Joni Mitchell.

On the other hand, I was very upset by the flame war in the comments section. It makes my heart sink to see how people approach things that are beautiful with so much hatred and fear.