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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reaction to New York Times Interview w/ Neil Young

Neil, Pegi, Ben & Amber 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."

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."
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:
Am I the only one who views a life escaped as sad?

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.
It's these types of judgmental comments on drug usage that seemed to have generated the most heavy discussion.

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.

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.
And so on.

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.

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.
Another comment by Not Above Suspicion at the edge of town:
A lot of people are reading way too much into certain things.

"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.
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."

By all indications, Neil has lived a life examined and fulfilled.

May we all, as well.

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46 Comments:

At 9/20/2012 11:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gonna smoke a "bomber" for Neil tonight -- cause it's homegrown time up here in Northern New England and that what we do!!!

 
At 9/20/2012 12:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone at the benefit he did last night? For cancer research in LA. Tony Bennett also sang. He did Sugar Mtn and Heart of Gold. Anyone know what else?

 
At 9/20/2012 01:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine's Rebel With a Cause Benefit honoring Sumner Redstone and Dr Murray Gell-Mann. Four Seasons Hotel. Getty images has photos.

 
At 9/20/2012 01:31:00 PM, Blogger Glenn Fink said...

It was a great article and I have to agree that Neil's drug use doesn't seem to have been a professional stumbling block. Heck, some of us drink too much coffee and THAT can have an effect professionally, too. And of course, alcohol is still the number one problem, and too much of that can kill you on the spot. So... yeah, moralizing on it feels disingenuous at worst, clueless at best. Long may Neil run, whatever the fuel, whatever the muse.

 
At 9/20/2012 03:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was a very well written piece but was a bit disappointed that no mention was made of Ben Keith and L.A. Johnson and Danny Whitten, etc.

 
At 9/20/2012 03:48:00 PM, Blogger peter d. said...

I started to read the comments on the article but it was way too much, so I moved over to the Readers Picks (later to the editors Picks but they were less innaresting).
After reading quite a few I was struck by the enormous amount of responses that are simply loving and grateful. Reactions which, each in a different way, revealed something about what Neil's music had meant in the lives of other people - people who I don't know at all but they expressed my feelings.
No trace of hero worship, just honest love and gratitude.

I wanna live, I wanna give...

 
At 9/20/2012 05:23:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Media outlets slanting a story for whatever reason? Hardly news. I'll stick with the merits of Carr's piece, which I found to be pretty fair minded, even tho he too falls prey to the obligatory career turns take that chroniclers can't seem to not focus on. But all in all, I enjoyed the article.

Having said this, the aforementioned comment definitely stood out to me:

"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."

I don't think it's a matter of making a case for drugs having gotten in the way in any basic way, just one review of his personal and professional accomplishments should dispel that notion out of hand. Could he have accomplished more had he been sober over the same period? Who knows. It's like someone else said, maybe he would have accomplished less, or delivered things with less impact. Either way, it's hard to argue with things as they stand, even tho many do and will find a way to do just that.

I also think that the quote does not reveal his full understanding, just a new way of looking at it. Still, it's hard to avoid the words themselves: hard to know and recognize himself, and needing grounding, that's pretty plain talk. And the admission that there may be a physical toll is nothing to take too lightly, either.

But I don't get the sense of regret, or questioning anything too closely, just a little honest surprise at the contrast between two different sensory experiences of the world.

I don't think an isolated article or conversation can fully treat the subject, and anything beyond what Neil thinks of it all himself is obvious conjecture, but it did surprise me and catch my attention, and now has got me thinking.

A Friend Of Yours

 
At 9/20/2012 06:23:00 PM, Anonymous jim x comet said...

Big deal.The mans a genius.Just leave it at that.

 
At 9/20/2012 06:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing for sure, all the hype is drawing enough interest to drop 29.95 on the book., and isn't that what all this is all about? Neil wouldn't be doing these interviews if he wasn't schelping the book.
Sponcered by Nobody

 
At 9/20/2012 07:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that we know the background of the interviewer, the article's focus on matters financial makes more sense. I was struck not by the comment about sobriety, which I interpreted as merely an off-the-cuff, throwaway line from Neil, but rather by the frequent appearance of the following words (the number of instances of use are in brackets): money (5), cash(2), fortune (2), investor (3), investment (1).
I have read a lifetime's worth of articles about Mr. Young, and never recall so much attention being paid to his financial circumstances and dealings. It was a decent article, notwithstanding, but the writer's lack of familiarity with Neil's background and catalogue did show through at a couple of points. Jason

 
At 9/20/2012 08:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neil does not need money

 
At 9/20/2012 09:41:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Money isn't real

 
At 9/20/2012 10:38:00 PM, Blogger John EH Connelly said...

Interestin stuff , not the first time .
Back of the vinyl album cover.... Reactor
Some Latin , some may recognize EH !

 
At 9/20/2012 10:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously the guy does need money to maintain his lifestyle. He's been pretty blunt about needing to make money. I find this so sad. I guess neither Neil nor Pegi have any good sense about money. Do I recall $60,000 private jet flights to see Lincvolt in Kansas after shows? Didn't he make $25 million when he re-upped with Warner after Mirrorball? So sad .

 
At 9/21/2012 02:09:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Check out DECADE for Neil's comments about drugs. As a closed book for many years guess all this was to be expected - let's hope his new found sobriety leads him to release some of the 70s stash and ups the quality control.

 
At 9/21/2012 02:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree quality control has been an issue the last 10 years. Never would've guessed it was alcohol, but it starts to make sense.

 
At 9/21/2012 07:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil had a beer with him onstage at every solo show I saw during 2010 & 2011. Big deal...

The fact is that every single human being who chooses to engage in extended periods of intoxication will eventually begin to question its effects and consequences on a variety of matters. Celebrity status does not negate truth.

I have had extended periods of both heavy drug use and heavy alcohol use throughout my almost 40 years. Do I regret it? Sometimes yes sometimes no. I can't change the past & neither can Neil.

It is encouraging to hear that my musical hero is forging this path in his personal life. I wish him nothing but the best.

One of these days I hope to have the same resolve to finally get 100% sober myself.

 
At 9/21/2012 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

"People always clap for the wrong things."
--Holden Caulfield

 
At 9/21/2012 08:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
But he doesn't quit rock rock 'n' roll.

Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
But he doesn't quit rock rock 'n' roll.

Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
Neil Young quits drugs and alcohol,
But he doesn't quit rock rock 'n' roll.

The HORSE is back in full glory!
Long live the mighty HORSE.

Here you can listen to 3 minutes of the best song Neil has ever written: WALK LIKE A GIANT

http://tinyurl.com/dyutryx

I USED TO WALK LIKE A GIANT ON THE LAND

 
At 9/21/2012 09:14:00 AM, Blogger Matthew L. said...

Anon 9/20 10:51 - It costs a lot of money to operate a business and pay the large amount of people Neil employs on his ranch. Keep in mind a lot of the "millions" of dollars you assume he makes is funneled back into his business. Not only to pay employees, but support his projects, such as LincVolt. Neil is a job creator!

 
At 9/21/2012 09:44:00 AM, Blogger rustedbugs said...

Listen...... Neil's "drug" is MUSIC! Creating, playing, giving it. Not a bad addiction to have, eh?

 
At 9/21/2012 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

I was driving down
On the 101
It was late at night and I was
Thinking 'bout the things I'd done

All of my regrets
And baby all of my fears
I was slipping the car
From gear to gear to gear
--Steve Wynn...Amphetamine

 
At 9/21/2012 09:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen...... My "drug" is Neil's MUSIC! Not a bad addiction to have, eh?

Long May He Walk Like A Giant!!!

 
At 9/21/2012 09:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Long May He Walk Like A Giant!!!

 
At 9/21/2012 10:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people don't really understand that weed isn't a drug like other drugs. It's not something many people quit, though they may stop or grow out of it, it's something you integrate into your life. Just look at Neil, he stopped because he wanted to. He thought after being stoned most of his life he'd try to do try something new, just to see how straight people live.
Weed is an enhancer, it's not something you use to hide from your troubles like people seem to think. I use it to relax, enhance sex, enhance sports etc. etc.
And certainly more people have started using weed for health reasons than have quit using it for health reasons.

Neil's comments about being too alert, I think, refer to being too in the world/out of your head. Weed allows you to live inside your head and see the world from a different perspective. He might feel it's easier to know yourself when you're high.
Anyway it doesn't matter if he's quit or not, it matters that he know it's not a bad substance.

That being said, I don't think it's something for everyone. Most people are far too closed minded.

Syscrusher
Life's too short to waste it being sober.



 
At 9/21/2012 10:50:00 AM, Anonymous TheRealDOD said...

Nice story...Where's Ben Keith in the story though?...Also I updated my Touch to i06 the new ITunes update and my app for ITune Radio disappeared.Had to download from the store for free and upload back tom the Touch.Ready for tomorrow's podcast now on TWR. Thanks again Thrasher....

 
At 9/21/2012 11:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Neil quit for a while during the Reagan years, too?

 
At 9/21/2012 12:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He also quit after the aneurism. I bet he drank more than people guess. And not just beer. I've heard numerous references to him and liquor over the years. And the guy has a special attachment to bars. As for the money, well we all have to live within our means. I had a sister in a wheelchair for many years until she died and my dad was blue-collar. she always got what she needed, but she and the other kids didn't get a whole lot of extras. You always put some aside. If that means hiring fewer people or lavishing less on pet projects, that's what you do. It's called being responsible. Lots of us do it every day.

 
At 9/21/2012 01:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we don't need to ask for whom Matthew is voting.

 
At 9/21/2012 01:10:00 PM, Blogger Matthew L. said...

Take a guess, Anon. Who do you think I'm voting for, and what gives you that impression?

 
At 9/21/2012 01:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He seems to have quit for a minute or two after he got out of the Geffin deal.

It should also be pointed out that he wrote a song called "We Don't Smoke It No More" in 1974.
Wonder what that's all about?

The song "No More" though is about not doing a different drug.

Syscrusher

 
At 9/21/2012 01:57:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Lets remember he'll be sober until he's not ... we're talkin bout Neil here ... he reserves the right to change his mind ... i like the interview overall, disliked but wasn't surprised that they took a single comment about being sober and made it into a headline ... Neil basically said he was experimenting with sobriety as another perspective, tomorrow he may choose to give up that experiment or not ... I do agree Neil is one of the few rockers who managed to keep a level headed perspective and not get run over by drugs ... to Thrasher's point I thought the comment of trying to live up to his family's love said more about Neil and where he's at than anything ... the other key story line in my mind is that 2012 has shaped up to be another huge year of productivity for Neil ... can't wait for the new album, the memoir, and the live shows, not to mention Journeys which was supposed to be playing by my town and then mysteriously disappeared ... anyhow Long Live Neil!!

 
At 9/21/2012 02:01:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

"person good enough to be worthy of his family’s love."

This.

Recovery is about so much more than just quitting something "bad." Sobriety means seeking the strength to face life's challenges and accept life's miracles. That Neil has reached this point in his life is a wonderful thing.

Neil has written about addiction his whole life, starting with "Needle..." and "Old Laughing Lady" through "Cocaine Eyes" and "No More." Now go back and listen to "No Hidden Path" and "Spirit Road" and you'll understand Neil Young's sobriety.

 
At 9/21/2012 02:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He says this has been a sober year. His output this year is about the best in memory. Two superb albums. What looks to be a fascinating book. No lack of creativity there. I say the dirty drinking life ain't got nothin on the clean, aware one. Well done, Neil!

 
At 9/21/2012 02:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plus, I saw the Tahoe show last month and other than 99 solo, I've never seen a better one.

 
At 9/21/2012 02:37:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

For many of us, this isn't too big a surprise. For us, it seemed pretty clear during the performances of Hitchhiker in 2011 that something was up on the whole subject.

The final line of Hitchhiker seems to point to where the strength & resolution came from.

 
At 9/21/2012 02:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As with most things Neil, there's more to the picture than meets the eye.

 
At 9/21/2012 04:11:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

I had two people bring up to me in conversation that they read the article both and went straight to the sobriety thing. I was surprised people are so fascinated by it as I didn't really think anything of the comment. Just another one of Neil's trips he's on. Maybe he'll stick with it, maybe not. Nothing has ever seemed to slow his incredible pace so it seems kind of an interesting side note rather than a headline.

 
At 9/21/2012 06:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

setlistthief,
You're the kinda of person who just doesn't get it. Being sober from weed has nothing do with facing lifes challenges. Being stoned on weed has nothing do to with avoiding lifes challenges. Weed will make every experience more powerful. the good ones and the bad ones.
You're taking what you've learned about alcohol and applying it to marijuana. There is no comparison there.
Neil might just experiment with sobriety the way others experiment with drugs.
Syscrusher

 
At 9/21/2012 08:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Syscrusher...your statements reflect a sheer ignorance(maybe innocence?)coupled with arrogance concerning drug abuse - and marijuana is a drug no matter how you try to spin it.

I have over three decades of continual pot smoking & it is not something to be trivialized. Yes it is different than alcohol .

But true sobriety means the absence of ALL drugs.

I hope you are lucky eneough to live long enough to grasp this concept someday.

And believe me, I LOVE marijuana...Big Time...

But your comments made me sad...

 
At 9/21/2012 08:56:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

@syscrusher- Learn to read before you attack others.

Peace.

 
At 9/21/2012 09:21:00 PM, Anonymous The Zuma Band said...

"Some get stoned,
some get strange,
But sooner or later
it all gets real.

Walk on"

Neil Young, "Walk On"

 
At 9/22/2012 04:24:00 PM, Blogger tuned4life said...

setlisttheif, I have read and reread these comments. After much consideration I have decided to break My anonymity. There are only two things I have been successful at and I can't take credit for either one. The first is 24 1/2 years of Sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. The second is "Love". I wouldn't have the second with out the first, and it is the Grace of GOD and nothing else that I have been blessed with these. The two things that no amount of self will or money can attain. When I say I am Sober that means I have not taken a drink or any other mood altering substance since the spring of 1988 to date. I drank and smoked pot every day from age 13 to 33. If there was anyway I could have gotten away with it for one more day I would have. I am not going to be so arrogant as to say I will never drink or drug again but GOD willing I won't. In 2005 without knowing it I took on the job of saving My Wife's life. I failed miserably. I cared for Her day and night for 5 years. Not because I wanted to or was qualified but because I couldn't trust anyone else. She was so close to getting the transplant but it wasn't meant to be. She died with 19 years of Sobriety. In 2011 at Massey Hall when Neil ended "Hitchhiker" with the words My Wife, My Wife, My wife, Wife, wife, it seemed to go on and on. It was so heart felt, Like He owed His life to Her. All I could do was cry. Being Sober "Spirit Road", "No Hidden Path" and "The Way" say it all. I wonder how it is that Neil has come to know these timeless truths. I guess it doesn't really matter does it? The last 50 years really is all one song. Whether the title is Heart of Gold, or Hitchhiker. "If You Got Love" you got it all. Sober or not, The Spirtual part of Neil is like the wet part of Lake Ontario. Doug S.

 
At 9/22/2012 05:16:00 PM, Blogger setlistthief said...

@tuned4life-Thanks for sharing. It works if you work it.

;-)

 
At 9/23/2012 04:44:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

I am a pharmacist
Prescriptions I will fill you
Potions, pills and medicines
To ease your painful lives

I am a lost soul
I shoot myself with rock & roll
The hole I dig is bottomless
But nothing else can set me free
--Robert Pollard


Then the sun is gone, the journey is done, the new moon rises.
--Peter Matthiessen...The Snow Leopard

 
At 6/05/2013 11:54:00 AM, Blogger andrabian said...

C'mon Neil is famous for his habit of shocking his audience, it's the same story as Keef smoking up his dad.
It must be clear to wnyone, who has ever dealt with children with special needs, let alone with CP, or aware of Neil's and Pegi's 40 yr old fight for Ben that Neil is not a junkie but one of the most serious men and father who ever lived

 

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Love and Only Love

"Thinking about what friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie"


We're All On
A Journey Through the Past


Neil Young's Moon Songs
Tell Us The F'n TRUTH

Freedom:
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Does Anything Else Really Matter?

"Nobody's free until everybody's free."
~~ Fannie Lou Hamer

Here Comes "The Big Shift"

Maybe everything you think you know is wrong?
"It's all illusion anyway."

Propaganda = Mind Control
Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
Be The Rain, Be The Change

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the truth will set you free
This Machine Kills Fascists


war is not the answer
yet we are
Still Living With War

"greed is NOT good"
Occupy the Music

Hey Big Brother!
Stop Spying On Us!
Civic Duty Is Not Terrorism

The Achilles Heel
#NullifyNSA
Orwell (and Grandpa) Was Right


Yes, There's Definitely A Hole in The Sky

Wake up!
"consciousness is near"
What's So Funny About
Peace, Love, & Understanding & Music?

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