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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Neil Young's "Companion": "The wisest person I've ever met"

Photo by Chris Pizzello

One of the more remarkable revelations to emerge from the flood of Neil Young "Heart of Gold" publicity interviews is the one he conducted with Reader's Digest: "Neil Young -- Aneurysm Survivor: Spots, Symptoms, and Scares" by Alanna Nash. First off, for many, an interview with Reader's Digest is nearly as surprising as appearing in Parade Magazine.

But there they are. In the Reader's Digest interview Neil does reveal the rationale behind interviewing with mass general appeal publications. Neil admits he is tired of the rock press questions.

Please, take my advice. Hear for yourself the Reader's Digest Neil Young interview. There's quite a bit of background noise but the reporter's unedited interview provides remarkable insight into Neil's magically miraculous year which we've heard so much about of late. The rise, fall, and resurrection sequence practically reads like a VH-1 "Behind the Music" program.

But what's most fascinating is the way Neil lays out the tale.

And then there is the "Companion"....

"The night before his operation Neil and Pegi gathered Zeke, Ben and Amber, reassuring them that the surgery wasn't a big deal, that it would be a complete success. Then, privately, the couple went through intensely emotional decisions about what to do if everything didn't go as planned.

In the end, everything turned out just fine in the OR, and Young quickly returned to his New York hotel to recuperate. Two days later, headed for a local restaurant on his first trip out after the surgery, Young managed half a block before hearing his foot make a strange sucking sound with each step. He looked down to see his leg washed in blood. The point of entry for his aneurysm repair -- his femoral artery -- had suddenly reopened, a very rare condition that may not be preventable but is treatable.

Elliot Roberts, Young's manager, called frantically for an ambulance on his cell phone. Back at his hotel and feeling like he was about to faint, Young lay on the floor to get his head low. His body shaking, he placed his fingers on the opening to stop the bleeding. "Now I know how people feel when they get shot," he says.

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics put him on a stretcher. One of the EMS workers asked Young to cross his arms on his chest. "I don't like that position," he said, joking. "We're not going to lose you," the worker responded, even as Young's blood pressure plummeted and the paramedics worked to stabilize him.

At New York-Presbyterian, a member of Young's surgery team waited in the ER. He, too, promised the singer that they wouldn't lose him. Still, the doctor held the puncture site closed with his own hands for 30 minutes, and it eventually resealed itself without the need for additional procedures. Through it all, Young never lost consciousness.

When Young was finally moved to a room, he requested that someone from the hospital stay by his side. "I was kind of worried about what was going to happen next," he says. The hospital sent a volunteer, an elderly woman who assured him, "You came very close to leaving, but you're fine now. It's just going to get better." The two talked about religion, Young telling her his faith was based in nature, in the moon, the forest, trees and animals. The woman listened attentively, but reminded him not to forget to thank "the master."

"She shepherded me through, like an escort," Young says. The last song he wrote for his album was "When God Made Me", which harks back in tone to a 17th-century hymn. "All these words came flooding to me," he says. "I was thinking, Wow, I've never written anything like that before." Only later did Young learn that his Nashville recording studio had been a church in a prior incarnation."

A fine interview by Alanna Nash and not asking the standard questions and hearing the standard responses.

This "Companion" story has emerged else where. Most recently in Esquire (interviewed by Cal Fussman) where he called the "Companion" the "wisest person I've ever met."
"The wisest person I ever met had to be my companion in the hospital a few months ago. I was recovering from complications after an operation to remove an aneurism in my brain. She was about eighty-five years old and maybe five feet tall.

An old black lady from South Carolina. This young nurse wasn't really in touch with what she was doing, and the old lady would tell her how to do what she needed to do without telling her. She never talked down to her, just gave examples. I felt that this old woman must be deeply religious, but there was nothing forceful about her. I woke up one morning at a quarter to six and looked out the window. Fog was on the bridge outside the room, and I said, "Well, that's just beautiful." And she said: "Yes, it is." She turned toward me with this eighty-five-year-old face that didn't have a line on it, no strain, nothing, and she said:
"So the master's not taking you. It's not your turn."

More on other wise friends of Neil Young and the Prairie Wind Companion CD.


At 3/02/2006 08:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The rise, fall, and resurrectionof Neil"? Sounds biblical to me.
St. John

At 3/02/2006 01:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" One of the EMS workers asked Young to cross his arms on his chest. "I don't like that position," he said, joking."

What video has NY being wheeled on a gurney down hospital corridors? "Mansion on a Hill"?

At 3/02/2006 06:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would like to meet him one day

At 3/02/2006 06:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

he is agreat guitarist of all time brian mcguire says so 1740 2561108 call me niel...

At 3/02/2006 08:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An amazing interview! Thanks. Very cool the interview segment with Pegi at the end. Nice surprise.

At 3/02/2006 09:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After all of that, practically dying and all it was pretty funny that Neil would call the whole thing like a bad episode of E.R.

The dude has a real sense of humor.

At 3/03/2006 08:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So anyone know what the Companion is up to these days?

At 3/03/2006 12:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the 'companion' had the faintest idea who she was watching over...

Thanks to her, a job well done!

At 3/04/2006 12:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how can i speak to you
i have a message from gud



At 3/05/2006 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lena,
No need to contact me, I already got the message.
Love, Neil

At 3/05/2006 09:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am new to the internet and neils web sites, i hope your doing well neil, the movie, heart of gold was

rik, from san diego,, i sent you the christmas train videos, years ago neil,, waiting, for your vist to san diego, re; A CONCERT!!
get rest and heal,, neil, later,,

At 4/23/2006 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Delphi_Star said...

I just saw "Heart of Gold" - many parts made me very sad - remember to sieze the days and live in the moment...& MAKE ART! Neil, you don't need to contact me - unless you are in Milwaukee..I could take your photo - we could go to the lake & bring your guitar & "harp":) Long May YOU run!
I also miss Nicolette Larson's Voice every time I hear Neil's songs...booo hoo...

At 8/04/2006 03:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heart of Gold was just the most inspiring, engaging, emotional, feel good movie we have ever seen, as Neil Young's music has been part of our loving life, 36 yrs.
Just watched movie here in Byron Bay Australia other day while one of our best friend was awaiting her operation on an anuerysm the next day, which was successful. Wow! Thanks for being who you both are, Neil and Pegi. Luv, Thelma


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