Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Mystery of Neil Young

I watched a portion of this recent interview by Charlie Rose with musician Neil Young last night. Whether you agree with Young or not on his view of the world, I think you'll find it a riveting and interesting conversation with a man and artist who is engaged and alive, smart and amusing.

But here's the thing. Neil Young is a mystery for me. I acknowledge his importance. But for me, though I can name a few Young pieces from over the years that I have liked--Ohio and Helpless, Helpless, Helpless from the CSN&Y years, and Heart of Gold and My, My, Hey, Hey from his solo repertoire, for example, I've just never taken to his music.

Instead, I've routinely had the experience of listening to his releases--even owning one or two through the years--and, after giving them several listens, coming away thinking, "That was okay, I guess." Or, "What was any of that about?" Or, "What is the fuss over this guy?" I remember especially thinking those things with Harvest, a release I owned on vinyl when it was first released, which many consider a classic. (Rolling Stone puts it at #82 on its list of 500 greatest albums of all time.)

Young is a great guitarist of unique styling. I enjoy his guitar work especially on hard rocking songs. Unlike some, maybe, I like his voice. And I love a few of his political songs. But he simply doesn't reach me, intellectually or emotionally.

I say this not as a rant against Young. I guess I wonder what's wrong with me. What do others get about him that I don't?

I wondered that again after watching and listening his interview with Rose. I thought: "The guy is so compelling. So passionate. So interesting. All of that must inform and be part of his music. Why don't I pick up on any of that? Why can't I get into him? Why does his music leave me feeling indifferent or sometimes wondering what happened to the rest of a song that seemed to start out as a good idea?"

That's on me, not on Young. And it is, for me, the mystery of Neil Young.

No comments: