Thursday, February 21, 2008


At some event promoting the Crosby Stills Nash & Young documentary, Deja Vu, Neil Young mentioned that he didn't think that a song can change the world anymore. Inevitably, the press were all over that. I mean, you'd think the guy was the president of the United States and told a bald faced lie and got caught or something. 

I didn't want to write about it until I felt he had been given the chance to really express what he was trying to say, not what some reporter was trying to make it seem like he was saying.  I mean, what a story for them: "'60s Hippie Icon, Wrote 'Ohio,' Gives Up!" So, Neil responded on the "NY Times" section of his website

"A Song Alone
by Neil Young
No one song can change the world. But that doesn't mean it's time to stop singing. 
      Somewhere on Earth a scientist is alone working. No one knows what he or she is thinking. The secret is just within reach. If I knew that answer I would be singing the song. 
      This is the age of innovation. Hope matters. But not hope alone. In the age of innovation, the people's fuel must be found. That is the biggest challenge. Who is up to the challenge? Who is searching today? All day. All night. Every hour that goes by. I know I am. 
      My friends write to me don't give up. I am not giving up. I know this is the time for change. But I know that it's not a song. Maybe it was. But it isn't now. It's an action, an accomplishment, a revelation, a new way. I am searching for the people's fuel. Will I find it? Yes. I think so. I don't know why I may have been chosen to help enable a discovery of this magnitude. I know I can only write a song about it when I find it. Until then I can write a song about the search or spend all my time looking. But a song alone will not change the world. Even so, I will keep on singing.

I don't really know if "Ohio" really made a difference, politically speaking.  Like, did it truly scare nixon's people? Did "Blowin' In The Wind" really help to end the Vietnam War? I'd like to think so, but I don't know. I think it's more likely that they provided something of a rallying cry to like-minded people.  I think songs like that make people who go against the grain feel like they aren't alone, there are other people who question authority. Also, these songs came out way before the internet was bringing people together.  Even if these songs did have the power that history has assigned to them, I don't know that the conditions exist for music to make that kind of political impact anymore. It would be nice if I'm wrong about that - but I don't think music should be expected to change things in that sort of dramatic, immediate way. 

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