Neil Young’s new book
Remember that close-to-the-end scene in White Christmas when General Waverly is being feted at his heretofore empty ski lodge by guys reuniting from his old World War II outfit?
“You’re a disgrace to the outfit,” he growls. “You’re soft! You’re sloppy! You’re unruly! You’re undisciplined!”
Then he pauses. “And I never saw anything look so wonderful in my whole life!”
That’s how I feel about Neil Young’s new book, Waging Heavy Peace. (Blue River Press, hardback, $30.)
“You’re a disgrace to the writing profession, Neil. You’re soft! You’re sloppy. You have no respect for chronological order; you jump around in time like some deejay playing today’s hits and yesterday’s favorite. You’re repetitive. Contradictory. Undisciplined.”
“And I never read a book about someone famous that was as wonderfully refreshing as yours in my whole life.”
Like much of his music, it’s loose and unpredictable and open and honest.
Best of all, it’s a book that when you’re finished — and, frankly, I was glad it was over — you honestly feel you know the guy.
Too many books about famous people are spin jobs polished far too much by the subject’s ghost writer.
But here’s Neil at his honest best: “I don’t drink anymore myself, I’m moving on. And that’s not to say I won’t drink again. I’m not making any promises … .”
Too often we heap superlatives on rock and movie stars.
Me? I’ve loved Neil Young’s music since 1970 when I first heard his “After the Gold Rush” album following a Corvallis High cross-country practice. I saw him live at Mac Court Jan. 10, 1971, as a high school junior.
But, as with many others whose music I enjoy, I’m more of a fan of the music than the person.
Drugs. Love-and-leave-’em relationships. More drugs, sometimes while driving. Narcissistic living, f-bombing through life with little regard for others. The stuff of so many rock stars isn’t the stuff that, frankly, I don’t associate with inspiring people.
Still, if Young has his vices, he seems totally dedicated to his wife, to two sons, each of whom has struggled with disabilities, and to chasing dreams. He’s obsessed with efforts to build a better MP3 and building a more effective green way of fueling automobiles.
And he for arguably one of the top 10 rock musicians of our times, he’s just so real. Here he is, talking about going to Costco. There he is, talking about how he wasn’t there enough for a daughter, Amber Jean Young. And here he is, well, showing a spaghetti recipe of his father Scott’s.
I would have preferred a little less rambling and little more plumbing the depths of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But, all in all, his book, if not a literary gem, is refreshingly real journey through the past.