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Friday, February 08, 2008

"Music Can't Change World" Says Neil: World Reaction

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From the man whose song "Ohio" played a part in helping end the Vietnam war, now admits that music can no longer change the world.

Neil Young made the comment at the Berlin film festival which is screening "CSNY: Deja Vu".

From Associated Press story by GEIR MOULSON:
"I think that the time when music could change the world is past. I think it would be very naive to think that in this day and age.

I think the world today is a different place, and that it's time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world and to try to save the planet."

There's been quite a reaction to Neil's observation.

Commenting on Neil's remarks, Mother Nature On the Run said:
Did I read that right?

Music has always served as the catalyst for change ... the musician who provides the message in many cases is like a teacher we don't appreciate until we look back and see how they directly impacted our lives ...

What quickly precipitated change in the Nam years was the public's strong reaction to the deaths of the young people caught in the protest crossfire on campuses throughout the US ... do we really want to see our kids being shot down on the college campus today by orders from their own president? No. This is happening anyway due to a different war we're fighting here in the homeland ....

But don't sell yourself short, you old geezer. How many times has a person come up to you to say, "thanks Neil, for making LWW."

There's your answer.

Consider this ... the increase in activism lead by some very brilliant young people associated with MoveOn & increase in voter registration over the past 8 years from people who typically don't show at the polls ... it is always a few who lead ...

Hell, I got off my fat ass and did something after listening to LWW ... we all did ...

Rock on, Neil!!

Be safe, be careful, and send us a postcard ...

RoseMerry comments The Huffington Post:
If you read a number of biographies, you see that unless the subject dies young, the final chapters are never the best. I love Neil and I am just as prone to fall in the darkness of despair as anyone but the man is so, so wrong. Music has enriched my life and often provided meaning in a life that might otherwise would not have been worth living.

I am so sick of hearing that "today's music does not have the same soul". There are so many great, great young new artists, you just have to look past the noise of the megacorp idols that the Monsters of Distraction want to force feed us. The Wide World Web provides a great bypass of the this monster. Just takes a bit of effort on one's part.

We have changed the world - hey, did you ever think that a black man would win the Presidential primary in George Wallace's Alabama!!! I never dreamed I would live to see that!

This southern man is so glad that Neil Young is and was but he is so wrong in this - as wrong as Lynard Skynard was about his song.

From TakePart Blog Network:
"Neil Young is right. Music can’t change the world but musicians can. There just has to be enough of them working together."

misterbone The Huffington Post:
In the heyday of CSNY, music was one of the few forms by which political messages could be communicated to a mass audience. It was after all a form of entertainment which made it available to radio and television, media which otherwise gave little opportunity for straight political discourse, especially radical discourse beyond the mainstream. Today in the age of round the clock cable television news, the blogosphere, et cetera, music no longer is an indispensable means of mass political communication. However, given its power to reach our emotions, it can still play a role where the message has particular urgency.

From Sexuality in the Arts:
"Whether you agree with Neil Young or not, is not so important.

If you disagree in part with Neil Young, prove him wrong by showing or improving music’s reach and quality of communication to the rest of the world (and more specifically, start with your community and friends).

If you agree with Neil Young, then do what Neil Young does and keep singing, expand into new mediums (he just put his band’s music into a film), and keep speaking out for the things you want to see changed."

From Quark Soup:
"Wow, I'd really like Neil Young to explain how physics is supposed to save the world. It's far from obvious, especially to the physicists."

From TakePart Blog Network Amy V. writes:
"Perhaps it’s true that music and musicians don’t change the world the way they or we like to think they can. But individual people create change every day. Some by teaching, some by protesting, some by volunteering time or money. Sometimes a smile is all it takes to make the difference in another’s day. A song won’t change the world dramatically overnight, but it has to start somewhere, and musicians and their music can still do their part even if it’s not a revolution."

From Stereogum: Pack It Up, You Hippies Marty posted:
"As for whether music still has the power to change the world, I'd argue that it has no more and no less power than it did in the sixties. The only difference is that, with the arrival of the Beatles, several different social movements coalesced around the central point of music. Music wasn't necessarily what changed the world so much as a medium for what the world was going through."

From The Huffington Post mouselion posted:
"Music, as with all art, is not made in a vacuum. You can't separate life from the art. All art, no matter when it was made (and no matter how unwittingly) makes a political statement.

When Neil says, 'it's time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world' he's ignoring that they've been saying that for a few centuries now and, in fact, the current situation with Iraq (war), Pakistan (nukes), Iran (maybe nukes), terrorism, energy consumption and global warming is because 'we' put 'our' faith in science and technology. What ever happened to 'When the aimless blade of science slashed the pearly gates'?!

And, as far as spirituality -- whose version of spirituality? Another blogger today wrote of the need of a spiritual awakening. Seems like that also plays into the problems of today. Somebody's grasping at enlightenment eventually caused subsequent followers to hate somebody's grasping at enlightenment.

So, for 'science and physics and spirituality' to make a difference in the world, it takes vision. To communicate that vision, it takes art (which includes web design, blogs, and even 'objective' news media).

So, sorry Neil, you're not off the hook on that. And, neither are the rest of us...

From The Huffington Post by ArmchairNihilist:
"Give Neil credit for not capitulating to hippie sentimentality about 'the power of music' and such nonsense. The power to change the world could be in people's hands--IF they would choose to seize it, and if they'd sacrifice some of their comforts in pursuit of the common good. Alas, our narcissistic, individualism-uber-alles, winner-take-all spectator American society thinks it's just a matter of sitting around, waiting for the pendulum to swing back toward center. I'd say our 'progress' toward fascism is about 45% complete."

Neil Young Still Doesn't Get It | Future Majority:
"... music and culture continue to have a vital role to play. One song may not be able to change the world anymore, but hundreds and thousands of songs by as many artists, supported by fans that are smart and organized can. Neil Young should stop singing laments for activism of the past, and channel his anger and frustrations into aiding these new artists and activism models that are in part following in his footsteps."

Beyond the Art Fair: Neil Young is Feeling Bad:
"If we give up on the idea that that music or art will not repair what's wrong in this world, then we have lost our world.

It's not naive to think that art will change the world, Neil. It's naive to think we CAN'T."

Paz3 comments on The Huffington Post:
Sorry Neil, but I have to tell you that many of us over 40s (I'm 66) who work in non-profit social service are very familiar with your work, and it helps a lot of us keep going.

One of our particularly dedicated and inspiring staff members has "Rust Never Sleeps" scrolling across his PC monitor screen as a screen saver. That's just one example, among many. Also, quite a few of us in this work are big U2 fans.

Small change, maybe, and maybe we are mostly keeping our fingers in the dike, but remember that human beings learn most effectively via eaxmple.

Don't sell yourself short, Shakey.

This whole reaction is similar to that when Neil commented that he made "Living With War" because today's musical generation wasn't which resulted in an open letter to Neil Young by musician Stephen Smith which in turn resulted in the Songs Of The Times web page.

Lastly, many blogs site this video "Yes We Can" by will.i.am as an example of music possibly changing the world.



UPDATE: 2/11/08 - "I will keep on singing": Neil Reacts to Reaction.


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26 Comments:

At 2/08/2008 08:11:00 PM, Anonymous Chris from Québec City said...

I'm happy he said that.The important thing is to have strong opinions and nowadays people are too opiated.Maybe music changes people but what we need now is drastic changes and not just wishfull thinking.Opinionated people are harsh but necessary.At 62 Mister Young is more than ever a very innaresting character.
Pardon my english.
Chris from Québec City.

 
At 2/08/2008 09:00:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

As a 23 year old neil young fan this is kind of disapointing to read. He put all those protest songs on his website as if to encourage artistic opposition to what is going on, and now he says it's not going to change anything?
The world is different than it was in the 60's and 70's but at least one thing has stayed the same and that is war and violence and problems all over the world.
As long as those exist there will always be a place for artistic expression to show a different angle and say things in ways they haven't, but need, to be said.
Maybe this is just old Neil's way of lighting a fire under my generation and saying 'prove me wrong'
In this case, I hope he is proven wrong, and sooner rather than later.

 
At 2/09/2008 02:07:00 AM, Blogger Ben said...

"I am so sick of hearing that "today's music does not have the same soul". There are so many great, great young new artists, you just have to look past the noise of the megacorp idols that the Monsters of Distraction want to force feed us. The Wide World Web provides a great bypass of the this monster. Just takes a bit of effort on one's part."

I agree with this comment 100%. The level of innovation young people in the underground are reaching if you bother to dig underground is astonishing. Phil Elverum is one of my faves, I think Neil fans would dig him if they're up for something different.

And I saw Obama speak today. America's only hope.

 
At 2/09/2008 10:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as rust is beginning to sleep.

 
At 2/09/2008 10:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very sad to say it but I have to agree with Neil here. The fact that it is still CSNY and other musicians of their generations that are still the main ones speaking out shows how inadequate the music of today is. There was a time when music really could change the world, as Graham Nash said in "Chicago" but because of everything that has happened in recent years, sadly this is no longer the case.

 
At 2/09/2008 10:49:00 AM, Anonymous Ed said...

I agree with Neils comments as well. Otherwise the younger generation would have already of stepped up and made a mark musically. With exception of the Dixie Chicks I guess.

 
At 2/09/2008 02:55:00 PM, Blogger Ben said...

"The fact that it is still CSNY and other musicians of their generations that are still the main ones speaking out shows how inadequate the music of today is."

I used to get upset at comments like this, but now I just smile, because I get to listen to some of the greatest music ever created while you're listening to the classic rock station.

 
At 2/09/2008 03:00:00 PM, Anonymous Espen said...

I think some people misunderstand the point here. He didn't say "music can't change anything", cause for individuals it can. But the idea that music can change the whole world today is unrealistic. I give my full support to Neil's statement.

 
At 2/09/2008 07:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok then Ben, in comparison with the heyday of Neil, CSNY, Dylan, Hendrix and everyone else, just who today are "some of the geatest musicians ever?" (The only ones I can maybe think of U2 But they aren't exactly young) Somehow I cant imagine another Woodstock taking place any day soon! And as for your comment about me only listening to the classic rock station, as an 18 year old it would be some achievement for me to have gone through life without listening to any of todays music so please don't try and make it sound like I don't know what I'm talking about. If music could change the world, then wouldn't America have automatically pulled out of Iraq after Living with War and the Freedom of Speach tour? Think about it

 
At 2/10/2008 12:57:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature Working Overtime... said...

No not the world, Neil, but how about a change from within ourselves?

Neil has an uncanny ability to whittle issues down to the simplest grain of truth.

LWW was the tipping point. I think we've grown more tolerant of each other's ideologies and faith since LWW.

People aren't buying the "terrorists are coming" anymore. I don't feel that polarization as much because I think we learned what divides us will destroy us.

I have proof the world wasn't created in 7 days but somebody else out there believes it was? Okay, so why should that have any impact on who becomes president of the United States?

 
At 2/10/2008 10:28:00 AM, Anonymous anonymouse said...

The music is out there but it's not riding the radio waves.

The message is out there, Neil. We got it. Thanks for always being there.

Now if we can only get people to be informed voters not by what they see on television or hear second hand, but by going directly to the source.

From the guys who promise you "small government" guess what happened? Our federal government employment is higher than it's ever been.

There is so much more information out there. Don't be paralyzed with fear. That wolf at the door is only Uncle Dick in lambskin...

 
At 2/10/2008 10:54:00 AM, Anonymous Rory said...

woah neil makes sense he said that in order to save the planet you need science and such. Face it us americans arent gunna hear "stop driving cars" by yada jones and stop driving. Be honest. Now on the topic of war neil is great and he can cange the world.

 
At 2/10/2008 12:39:00 PM, Blogger Ben said...

"Ok then Ben, in comparison with the heyday of Neil, CSNY, Dylan, Hendrix and everyone else, just who today are "some of the geatest musicians ever?""

As I said before, Phil Elverum is doing things greater than or equal to any other artist back then. Not to mention the innovations in the world of hip-hop (Del, DJ Shadow, Jay Dilla, Wu-Tang), indie folk (sufjan, iron and wine, adrian orange, once again elverum), and really out-there avant-garde stuff (An Albatross, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Lightning Bolt, Explosions in the Sky, and less recent grou[s like Sonic Youth). The levels of musicianship, songwriting, and all around soul of artists of the past are matched by modern artists, who also bring to the table new innovations. And I say that as a huge fan of Neil, Tom Waits, Captain Beefheart, The Band, Booker T, Dylan, etc.

 
At 2/10/2008 02:25:00 PM, Anonymous Dan said...

One of Neil's greatest qualities is that he's an independant thinker willing to express his views no matter what the crowd will think. His comment about music no longer being able to change the world is spot on ... he's being a realist here not an idealist ... he's lived through almost the whole history of rock and roll, folk, punk, ect.... he's one of the few lone survivors and he's seen it all ... the world has changed ... in terms of the hippie dream he wrote once

"And the wooden ships
Are a hippie dream
Capsized in excess
If you know what I mean"

The fact is that the media today has been splintered -- internet, tv, video games, cable, radio ... music is powerful but it has more competition than ever ... pehaps music was a force in the 60s, perhaps, but that force is blunted today ..

 
At 2/10/2008 02:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in my wildest "Neil's music can change the world fantasy", I imagine a young black senator from Illinois listening dutifully to "Looking for a Leader" and in a fit of utter disdain at the Bush White House, seizes on the line, "...maybe it's Obama, but he thinks that he's too young..." to inject himself into the national maelstrom, compelled by Neil's national call to service. In my fantasy, Neil's music changes the world - because I know it's changed, and indeed rocked, MY world.

 
At 2/10/2008 10:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil's probably right...music needs other catalysts, not unlike what was true in the 60's. If draftees were going to Iraq my bet at Caesar's Sports Book would be that our country would be up in arms about the war.

 
At 2/12/2008 07:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nam vets are still treated like a piece of shit & we were forced to go. today young slickers volunteer & get extra money & get a party when they come home. thats gratitude.

 
At 3/15/2008 06:35:00 AM, Blogger Antony said...

Music, like books has never been able to change the world alone. A mass reaction and the unity of that in the celebration of music can and did.

At a time when the masses are for many reasons at their most politically indifferent, it is hard to disagree with Neil's comments.

There are few protest songs or politically motivated artists in these times. Why? My take is the absolute consumerism that consumes us as a force.

The majority of people are so wrapped up in their own desires to really care about others. That sounds like a very general statement to make, but only such thoughts provoke.

In terms of artists, the irony is that in an age when the distribution of ideology and music is at its most open; it is not being used for political or spiritual communication in the main.

This is in my belief proof that apathy and selfishness and greed and ego have replaced the desire to create art as a political statement.

In the consumerist and uber-capitalist world we now live in, the corporate machine governs, and the successive generations have fallen for it, hook line and sinker.

Musically, most new bands or artists I see today are a reflection of that society; one that desires fame, riches and worst of all 'celebrity' before artistic satisfaction.

The decline of the independent labels that Punk spawned has left us in a musical vacuum. As an internet pioneer, I have always believed that a new wave of music would spread the world, and once more music with a message would inspire people for change.

I still believe that, and have not lost hope that people via music, will create new communities with political agendas that will drive change.

Watch this space. Apathy is our worst enemy.

Love and Peace
Tony Meehan

 
At 4/10/2008 02:11:00 PM, Anonymous Gil said...

I think that Neil Young is a wise man for saying that. And I also think he said it to provoke a response from musicians especially. Smart. I agree with antony's comment above and think he is right on.
As a musician myself I have now written my own protest song tackling the issue of Hate in the context of trying to explain Hate to my children. It wasn't an easy or safe subject but I have to say that if it wasn't for people like Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and others who are brave enough to write meaningful songs of protest I never would have had the courage to write a song like this. Thanks to Neil Young, CSN, John Lennon, Bruce Cockburn and Wille nelson for providing the inspiration and giving me the courage and teaching me not to be afraid to let your voice be heard.
And thanks to Neil Young for giving all musicians a big kick in the pants. If you want to hear my new song HATE go here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt80anQoZ9o

 
At 7/15/2008 07:46:00 PM, Anonymous Steve Bradley said...

Music alone never has been able to change the world.

The way music can have an effect is in the way the musicians and the fans relate to what they are writing and hearing.

It's all about the reaction - not the catalyst.

 
At 5/24/2009 05:26:00 PM, Anonymous dr dip said...

Yeah CSN had it right with their song'Chicago'(slightly bastardised)


......"In a land that's kmown as freedom

How can such a thing be fair?

Won't you Please stop this "embargo"

Or else join the other side!

You guys can change this World

Rearrange this World

ITS DYING......So make it better!

Don't ask the Japs to help ya

Coz THEY'LL TURN THE OTHER EAR

Won't ya please stop this embargo

What else HAVE ya got to hide?

You guys can change this world

Rearrange this world!!

OBAMO!..Do you believe in justice?

OBAMO!..Do you believe in Freedom?

Lets us all make our own lives

TO GET BETTER!

Political Dip

 
At 10/09/2009 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous The Planet Music said...

I do not agree. It's, with all respectn an old school opinion.

We are living in the year 2009 and much more is possible today. We are going to change the planet with music.

And we strongly believe in what we are doing together and what we will achieve. If you like to join us send us a mail: info@theplanetmusic.org

Music makes a better planet.

 
At 2/05/2010 04:06:00 PM, Anonymous CarzPage said...

As a 23 year old neil young fan this is kind of disapointing to read. He put all those protest songs on his website as if to encourage artistic opposition to what is going on, and now he says it's not going to change anything?
The world is different than it was in the 60's and 70's but at least one thing has stayed the same and that is war and violence and problems all over the world.

 
At 7/06/2010 11:41:00 AM, Anonymous Raincheck said...

Neil is right. Music is Music. Life is life. Politics is politics.

In the 60's the change was the result of a generation sick of racism and fighting against a war they didn't believe in and didn't want to fight in. Music was the soundtrack. It was the resistance of MLK and thousands more that changed the race laws. It was kids on the streets (and underestimated letters from their mothers) that turned the tide on the war.

I love the music, but it reflected the times, it didn't create them.

 
At 3/26/2011 01:41:00 PM, Anonymous Bugs said...

"The world is different than it was in the 60's and 70's but at least one thing has stayed the same and that is war and violence and problems all over the world."

And there's your proof that Neil was right! You can sing all the little protest songs you want, get up on the stage and be the center of your own heroic little drama. Yeah, you'll "make a difference." For about five minutes. Then it will all blow over and humanity will go about its eternal bloody business. Your antics may help end a war. They will never End War.

Does that mean you shouldn't protest? Of course not. You're less of a person if you believe something strongly and don't speak up. But don't get the idea that anybody is listening. You're just not that important.

Neil grew up. Listen to your elders, kids.

 
At 3/26/2011 06:32:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

@Bugs: "Does that mean you shouldn't protest? Of course not. You're less of a person if you believe something strongly and don't speak up. But don't get the idea that anybody is listening. You're just not that important."

Maybe tell these folks .... Freedom in a New Year

 

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