September 26, 2012

A memoir with a heart of gold

By Neil Young
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My, my, hey, hey, Neil Young is here to stay in this rambunctious, affectionate, humorous and celebratory memoir of his wild ride through life from the windswept prairies of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in “Mortimer Hearseburg,” his 1948 Buick hearse, to the windblown walls of Topanga Canyon.

With characteristic grace, he invites us to sit in the passenger seat as he drives down the many roads he's veered onto during his remarkable career, stopping along the way to introduce us to his beloved family, the musicians and friends with whom he has created memorable songs for generations, as well as his cars, guitars and ingenious inventions. One is the PureTone player that allows listeners to hear music the way musicians hear it when they're recording; another is the Lincvolt, a repowered 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible that runs on alternative energy sources.

From his first band in Canada, The Squires, to his days with country-rock pioneers Buffalo Springfield, and his short-lived and sometimes contentious association with super group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to his solo career and ongoing involvement with Crazy Horse, Young has blown through the musical landscape like a hurricane with the force of his creative genius and innovative spirit. Throughout his career, he has embraced various musical styles, tinkering with new sounds and creating enduring songs such as "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," "Helpless," "Heart of Gold," "The Needle and the Damage Done," and "Harvest Moon," among many, many others. Reflecting on the death of his dear friend Ben Keith, the pedal steel guitar player who played with Young from his album Harvest (1972) to late 2009, Young offers his thoughts on the central role of music in his life: "When music is your life, there is a key that gets you to the core. . . . Crazy Horse is my way of getting there. That is the place where music lives in my soul."

Young's life has not always been easy. He recovered after painful treatments from a childhood bout with polio, weathered major epileptic seizures and learned to live with his condition, and raised two sons, Zeke and Ben, with severe physical impairments. Out of this experience with his sons, he and his wife Pegi built The Bridge School that assists children with severe physical conditions and complex communication needs. In the face of such challenges, Young shares his deep gratitude for life: "I accept the extreme nature of my blessings and burdens, my gifts and messages, my children with their uniqueness, my wife with her endless beauty and renewal."

Along this journey, Young offers insights about former band mates, like David Crosby, Graham Nash, Richie Furay and close friend Stephen Stills. "Stephen and I have this great honesty about our relationship and get joy from telling each other observations from our past," he writes.

Young feels like he's massaging his soul when he makes music, and he makes some of his finest music in this lyrical memoir, massaging our souls by hitting just the right chords with his words.

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Waging Heavy Peace

Waging Heavy Peace

By Neil Young
Blue Rider Press
ISBN 9780399159466

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