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Music

Neil Young once explained why he doesn't want to "OD on music"

Whilst you could criticise Neil Young for being something of a curmudgeon, you cannot doubt his sincerity. He is one of the most three-dimensional musicians to have ever graced the earth.

Young has lived a fabled life, one of many soaring highs and crushing lows, and unsurprisingly, this inspired the realism that he espouses in both his music and in everyday life. There’s a reason why Young’s work has such a universal appeal, and that is because of this uber-realism, a facet that often veers into the cynical, but is nonetheless pertinent. Although he was a countercultural hero, his music, and particularly his poetic lyricism was a stark departure from all the LSD-informed silliness that the era produced.

He built on this solid foundation moving into the 1970s, with personal struggles, such as the death of his Crazy Horse bandmate and partner in crime Danny Whitten and the affairs of girlfriend Carrie Snodgress informing the darker and more cerebral tone his work would strike after 1969’s incredible Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Memorably, he would even question his own relevance at the end of the decade on ‘Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)’ from 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps

This gives us a proper account of the sort of self-awareness that Neil Young has always displayed, showing himself to be his own worst critic at many points over the years, as he’s someone who struggles with such a sharp perception. He’s not a tortured artist, but he’s not far off.

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Given that he is such a fascinating figure, when Young released his first autobiography Waging Heavy Peace in 2012, fans of his flocked to bookstores to acquire a copy. As refreshing as his music, the book is written with a non-linear narrative and covers a host of topics from his career, family life, hobbies, as well as a multitude of other things.

Spanning 500 pages, it’s one of the most complete accounts of the inner workings of Neil Young, and duly, at points, it can be quite challenging. At one juncture Young even acknowledges this, pleading with the reader, “do not doubt me in my sincerity,” maintaining with his trademark poetic zest, “for it is this which has brought us to each other now”.

Speaking about the book to The Guardian in 2012, the Canadian troubadour revealed that he was already writing another book about cars. He said, “I do it really easily. I could probably do this and just this for the rest of my life, and I would be OK.” 

However, he was quick to assert that there’s no danger of him ditching music for good, even if readers of his book did think that at the time he was more interested in cars and other things than music, there was no chance they were actually going to become his primary focus.

He explained: “It gives me relief, it gives me something else to do so that music doesn’t wear me out, so that I don’t wear the music out. Everything should be taken in its own dose. You don’t want to OD on music and then the music loses its potency. If that’s all I did, it wouldn’t be as good. I think if you don’t have some obsession in your life, you’re dead.”

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