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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Waging Heavy Peace: Capturing The Spirit of the Artist

Neil Young
In The Redwoods
(Click photo to enlarge)

A rather definitive review of Neil Young's book Waging Heavy Peace in All About Jazz by Lloyd N. Peterson Jr.

Here's the opening and the whole review is well worth clicking through and reading in its entirety:
An argument can be made that the three greatest artists in the history of contemporary rock music are Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Neil Young, in no particular order. The most controversial amongst the three would be Young.

This of course comes from the fact that Young seems to almost purposely take the path that defies commercial success but it's also a significant part of the reason why he remains so relevant. Where as most rock musicians reflect the time they create in by focusing on making hits, they also become dated when contemporary culture moves into the future and the next generation wants their own identity, their own statement and, yes, their own music. Though rare in rock music, every now and then an artist comes along that creates from a deeper well. And that well is so deeply personal in a creative spiritual sense, that the creativity produced does not reflect a style or genre as much as it does the spirit of the artist.

Waging Heavy Peace is a shining example of just what that means.

There may be no other biography that is so closely in tune with the artist, nor an artist that is this in tune with his muse and has the ability to write about it in such a detailed and expressive way. This is not only an inside look into the life of Young but critically important, what is inside the genius of one of the greatest minds in the world of modern art. And at this level, the genre and concept of art disappears. It is the artistic mind in collaboration with the spiritual soul that becomes much greater than the styles that were more than likely identified by record business executives anyway.
More of review on All About Jazz.

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At 11/08/2012 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just read the book.It was a pleasant read.Neil is and was and remains my hero,both as a musician as well as a human being!

At 11/08/2012 02:17:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

"An argument can be made that the three greatest artists in the history of contemporary rock music are Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Neil Young, in no particular order."

No argument there. Those 3 top my list and have been the most influencial on me musically and as a guitar player/songwriter. And to some degree as a person.

Some may call the admiration they receive as hero worship, but in reality, I think it's more a recognition of ideals, talents, character, strength and personality that resonate to people and make them want to be better, that the music and lyrics have struck a chord in the heart which causes a response in a direction not travelled prior or that reinforces an existing belief structure.

Anyway ya look at it, the music of the top 3, has brought a trillion smiles, launched a bilion loves and infused a million careers.

I would say that John and Neil have shown the most open love and menace, while Bob seems to gravitate more centrally with his guarded personality and philosophy threaded through his music stories. He makes you have to dig to find it, whereas the other 2 tend to wear it on their sleeves constantly.

Artists are generally a bit peculiar anyway, non-mainstream, elusive for the most part. But man, when you can reach them and they reach you, then it's pretty cool. Enlightening.

At 11/08/2012 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Electrocrusier2010 said...

I thought the review in All about Jazz was one of the best I have read and I totally agree that Dylan Lennon and Young, at least for me, are the master artists of contemporary rock music. When listening to Dylan and John, I really have to pay attention, they throw so much out there to digest. I enjoy the ride, but I have to process all the information and the music never strikes that emotional chord or that feeling. Neil's music bores directly into my soul and makes me susceptible to his lyrics, which brings out emotions. I am really fortunate that I can experience this, it's like having another sensory input. Doesn't happen all the time, but Neil hijacks emotions like no other.

At 11/08/2012 11:09:00 PM, Anonymous Johan said...

I love the book I'm almost finished reading but this doesn't seem like a review of the same one. This makes it sound like an epic treatise on modern musical genius or something whereas the book I'm reading is, like another commenter said, more like a long email from an old friend that finally answered a lot of personal questions I've been wanting to ask about his life and his records. And as a side effect I feel like he is implanting his memories in his reader's minds, of all the friends and loves and lives he's been touched by so they'll live on after he's gone. It's really cool.

At 11/08/2012 11:28:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Great comments SONY and Electrocrusier. I haven't read the book yet, and I don't know enough about Lennon and Dylan to draw out the comparison, but I don't know that I've ever heard a better distillation of Neil the artist than, the "well is so deeply personal in a creative spiritual sense, that the creativity produced does not reflect a style or genre as much as it does the spirit of the artist".

This is at the heart of what the naysayers routinely miss. I think it irks them that Neil can't be easily categorized and pigeonholed, because it forces them to find whole other rationales for nursing their grievances. They know they're completely out of their depth because there isn't a cookie cutter test to apply.

I'll never forget a friends reaction when I acknowledged that Neil was not the best technical guitar player. He said it didn't matter because it was more important to feel the music. Like I say, I don't know everything about the others, but I don't see how Neil can be topped when you look at things along these lines.

A Friend Of Yours

At 11/09/2012 05:09:00 AM, Blogger peter d. said...

I'm reading (or trying to at least) the 'biography' of Keith Richards, stared right after reading WHP.
Of course it's an interesting read, but it just is nothing more than telling the story of his life.

And to be honest, I don't like his (or the interpretation by his ghostwriter) tone of voice, it's too much look-at-me-I'm-a-big-rockstar-I-did-it-all to me.

Where as in WHP, you get to meet a real grown up person with a unique character, a unique voice, unique insights... like when you meet a person in real life...

At 11/09/2012 12:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why Neil is getting such good reviews for the book. He should be getting sued, because all he did was use "Shakey" as his primary source. He basically re-wrote that book!

At 11/09/2012 03:49:00 PM, Blogger TS said...

Anon 12:30PM -

Your comment is beyond strange. Shakey is the story of Neil's life. How can Neil's autobiography be ripping off the source material for a book that is about his life? The source material is Neil. Some events happened in both stories..... because it's the same life. I'm confused. Unless you're being sarcastic and I'm too tired to pick up on it?..


At 11/09/2012 05:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the person who wrote that review, I have to admit that it was partly intended to make a statement about Neil as an artist. I grow tired of reading reviews and articles from writers that have little understanding about his artistic character. They see nothing more than a musician that is getting older and even make fun of him as this aging hippie musician. But artists keep producing regardless of age where as musicians do not. There is a difference and just my opinion but I think his new album proves this out. Who else at 66 has an artistic mind musically to create at this level? This only happens with artists regardless of the art form. There are places in WHP where Neil tries to express this and even explain it but it isn't something that is easily explainable and is even more difficult for the rest of us to understand. For me, that is the greatness of WHP and what separates Neil from the other 99 percent of other rock related musicians who are trying to "entertain" us in music and on stage. Neil does what he does because it is who he is and if we happen to like it, that's just an added benefit becasue as he says in WHP, he does care about his fans. I don't claim to be an expert about him and his music or his book. Many people here probably know more about him than I do. But I am a huge fan that just happens to have a pen and if I have a chance to educate others about his greatness, I am going to try the best I can. I may miss the target here or there, but it will never be because I didn't try. - Isn't this a great site? - We should all be thanking those who spend their own time to put this together. And if you are interested, here is something I wrote on Neil that Thrashers was kind enough to re-publish a few years ago.

At 11/09/2012 06:02:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Anon : "He basically re-wrote Shakey"

Say what?! You sir, are way off base equating Shakey and WHP. Sun and Moon. Earth and Sky. 2 completely different animals.

@Lloyd - thanks for visiting. Great review! The new Psych Pill is our soundtrack for reading WHP.

btw, thanks fr that reminder link. Your line about Neil: " He is Rodin with a piece of rock, Picasso with paint brush and Dostoevsky with pen. "



At 11/10/2012 05:42:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I feel like Anonymous @12:30 PM yesterday was attempting to be funny. Or at least, I hope so. Anyway, I've had fun reading WHP. Interesting title for a start: what exactly is "heavy peace"? Whatever it is, I have to say that it connotatively sounds like Neil.

Personally, I loved just reading about the story of Pocahontas, the old tour bus. Now when a guy does stuff like that for something like a tour bus, you know he's a real artist. Everything is a creative opportunity. There are many touches in the book that cause me to see Neil in that light, such as talking about the Native American arrow he always hangs on a new spot on the wall at the ranch. I feel like I'll need to read the book a second time just to mine through for good quotations to note. It was interesting reading about his filmmaking career, which is a side we often forget about. He mentioned one of many exciting projects in the works: The Shakey Pictures Collection for Netflix. I could be the only one who's interested in seeing 'Human Highway', but be that as it may. We all know what Gandhi said about minorities of one. I suppose Neil may be advertising a little by talking about all of his upcoming projects--but damn it, most of the stuff he puts out is so worth it! Honestly, I could read and enjoy a short book of Neil describing the motion of the ocean and natural landscape of Hawaii, which he spends a fair bit of the book doing. The way he writes about it, I totally pick up on the spiritual vibes he gets. "I might be a pagan."

I could write a whole post just on Neil's short passage on religion. It seems to have sparked enough reaction judging from other threads here, and it is certainly thought provoking and challenging to some of our biggest assumptions. But that's for another day. At the moment I keep thinking of another quote, which totally betrays Young as a creative thinker. Hey, it takes one to know on. "If you don't have some kind of obsession in your life, you're probably dead." Or it was something to that effect anyway. I wish I had the page number, but the book doesn't even have an index, so... I guess we really ought to wade through hippy dream of a narrative for ourselves.


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