Reaction to New York Times Interview w/ Neil Young
Willie Nelson's ranch, 1984
Photo by Joel Bernstein
(Click photo to enlarge)
A rather huge reaction to yesterday's New York Times Interview with Neil Young.
For much of the day, the interview was one the most read stories on the New York Times website while racking up hundreds of comments. (Also, Young's book Waging Heavy Peace jumped to #31 on Amazon's Top 100 seller listing.)
Across social media sites like Twitter / Search - "neil young" and Facebook | ThrashersWheatNeverSleeps, folks have been re-tweeting, liking, sharing and commenting like crazy about the interview.
Undoubtedly, the New York Times' David Carr (and editor Dean Robinson) have done a remarkable job in capturing one of the most insightful interviews of Neil conducted in many years. Carr writes in a sidebar article Driving Around with Neil Young - NYTimes.com:
I was a little nervous about the whole thing. I write a media column for the business section and report on a variety of cultural matters for the arts pages, but I am not a music guy. Let me rephrase that. I am a music person in the sense that I find good music uplifting and life changing, but I am not the kind of person who has Neil Young’s catalog at my mental fingertips.But what seems to be really attracting the most attention in the interview is the headline and lede concerning Neil's new sobriety. Meta coverage ranging from Rolling Stone | Neil Young Opens Up About Sobriety to The Guardian | Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol focus on the interview's substance quotes and book excerpts:
"I did it for 40 years," he says. "Now I want to see what it's like to not do it. It's just a different perspective."The New York Times Editor Picks also focus on drug related comments. For example, here's a highlighted comment by Dennis H. in Ft. Gratiot, MI:
In the book, he elaborates: "The straighter I am, the more alert I am, the less I know myself and the harder it is to recognize myself. I need a little grounding in something and I am looking for it everywhere."
Am I the only one who views a life escaped as sad?It's these types of judgmental comments on drug usage that seemed to have generated the most heavy discussion.
My worst nightmare would be to sober up at 65 and not know who I am. As someone who (Young) " smoked marijuana like others smoke cigarettes," I can't imagine how fragmented his memories must be. It's great to leave a legacy of songs, but if it comes at the cost of knowing yourself, and you can't remember much of it, it's a steep price to pay.
In reply, a comment by TPierre:
Perhaps the reason Mr Young and the article do not dwell on his drug use or the fact that he's now sober is because it's not all that earth shattering to Mr Young. It does not seem like his drug and alcohol habits were causing any major trouble in his life. He seems to treat his decision to give up chemical intoxicants more like an experiment and a change of perspective than motivated by any debilitating dependency. I like that; he quit because he wanted to, not because he had to.Or this comment mobocracy, minneapolis:
An interesting profile of Young, but what would normally just be a dumb decision by the editors to use the reference to Mr. Young's sobriety rises to the level of cheap, People Magazine sensationalism when the NY Times does it.And so on.
There was barely a single paragraph about Young's sobriety & past drug use, yet we're led into the article from the front page with a passage about drug use as if the entire article was about Young's drug use and sobriety.
I found that a cheap and misleading lure into a story that had almost nothing to do with it. I expect better from this paper.
Some may forget that Neil Young wrote what has become one of the all time definitive songs on the perils of drug abuse while others remember the guy who wrote a song about one thing that eventually came to mean another thing. And all of Neil's drug excursions are very well documented by none other than himself.
Some point to all of this talk about smoking pot "the way others smoke cigarettes" as much ado. Afterall, given the prolifically successful output during his career, one could make the case that it either didn't hurt his creativity or actually enhanced it.
Another comment by Metastasis, Chapel Hill, NC:
I'm not a pot smoker, but the assumptions about Mr. Young's pot smoking (and the sensationalistic article title) are kind of maddening.Another comment by Not Above Suspicion at the edge of town:
Here's a guy who has done what he does at an exceptional level for a long time. If he were a wastrel, perhaps you could judge him. But given who he is, and the lack of any evidence of neglecting his family, let's forgo any judgement. Smoking pot may not be best for you and me, but let's avoid the nanny state mentality of deciding what is best for Mr. Young, who is clearly doing well. He's made a far greater and deeper mark than most of us.
A lot of people are reading way too much into certain things.So lots of moralizing about someone else's personal behavior. Neil says he tries to be a "person good enough to be worthy of his family’s love."
"Neil Young Comes Clean" is not meant to suggest that Neil stopping drinking and toking is a major event because he had been seriously impaired. It's an obvious allusion to the fact a notoriously private person wrote a memoir revealing a bit of himself.
Neil's comments about being sober suggest to me it was more a matter of a man with some health problems figured that at his age it might be a good idea not to do things that his body can't handle as well as it once did and not because he believed his use was out of conntrol or weaking havoc on his personal or professional life. (He's obviously had huge success on his own terms professionally and is happily married and close to his children-- hardly the profile of someone whose drug use was all consuming.)
The line about finding he knows himself less well sober was more of a casual off-the cuff comment than anything else. It's a thing a person who is and always has been introspective would say, not something meant to suggest he thinks he's been in a 45 year stupor.
By all indications, Neil has lived a life examined and fulfilled.
May we all, as well.