At one time, I was very “into” memoirs. In fact, one semester , I had my students do a “memoir project” as part of their course requirements, reading then reviewing a memoir. The students actually enjoyed this assignment, and the culminating memoir they wrote from their own life was very interesting, and in some cases inspiring. One would not necessarily use “inspiring” as a term for the heavy rock n’ roll legend Neil Young, but his memoir was one that was revealing, an indicator of the glory days of rock n’ roll, and even uplifting at moments.
Hard-singing, hard-playing, hard-living Neil Young’s music was the last thing from my mind as an uptight, judgmental, hard-working, low-paid, “green” teacher of the seventh and eighth grade kids who appreciated his sound. I remember them talking about Buffalo Springfield and their special albums that only teenagers understood.
The 2012 hardback showed up in a box of “donations” left on my back porch for my LFL (Little Free Library). Picking it out as an “I might like to look at this one” volume, I placed it on my TBR shelf and finally began to read it last week. I had planned to scan it, to skim through it, but I was caught up in the honest, no-holds-barred writing of the author. He wrote of events and performances I vaguely was aware of during the 70s, but it was a “whole other world” that had no place or meaning in my life at the time. I googled many of the groups, performers, and songs mentioned in this fairly thick tome, and I received a basic outline/education of rock n’ roll in its heyday.
To give an example of the good writing in this book, I turn to chapter 64: “Walking in the forest for me is like going to church. It is my cathedral…” Contrasting this with the exciting highs of causing along at 45 miles per hour listening to music, wondering if the cop you see will figure out you are high on cocaine as you drive, the author describes the many tickets and arrests the group received, which are balanced by the many times they “outsmarted” or outran the cops pursuing them. Many of his contemporaries of the 70s’ names were dropped, and the stories and collaborations about and with them were interesting. The actual cutting of albums, the way they happened, what happened during the recordings, and the last minute changes and substitutions to original plans were nothing short of fascinating.
Young was inducted into the R & R Hall of Fame in 1995 as a solo artist and again in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield. Other groups he recorded with include Crosby Stills and Nash , Crazy Horse, and others.
Toward the end is a description of where he is when the book is published: “I have been clean now for seven years. That is a good, long time. I still feel cravings. Maybe I’d like a beer, maybe a joint…I haven’t written a song in more than half a year, and that is difficult for me…I always wrote when I was high before.” He has lived out his latter years quietly on The Broken Arrow Ranch involved in such philanthropic efforts as Farm Aid and The Bridge, a special school for special individuals with special needs.