Micah Nelson Responds To Neil Young's New Song "Neighborhood"
Neil Young's new song "Neighborhood" (The Drone Song) has begun to stir up a bit of controversy after only a few public performances.
On the YouTube page comments, there is now posted an "Open Letter to Neil Young" on the song's lyrics by Rabih Hamzeh:
OPEN LETTER TO NEIL YOUNGThe above comment is responded to by Neil Young's band Promise Of The Real band mate Micah Nelson (Willie Nelson's son):
I caught your show tonight on the second day of the Desert Trip concert (aka “Oldchella”) and, along with 75,000 other fans, was really getting into the show.
Until, that is, you played “Neighborhood”, a new song I had never heard before. It’s a song about “terrorists” “hidden in the dark” that could “end your life tomorrow”. The part that shocked me though, Neil, was this lyric: I think I know who to blame It's all those people with funny names Moving into our neighborhood How can I tell if they're bad or good? And the crowd of mostly middle aged Caucasian people went wild. Now look Neil, I can generally “pass”, okay? I mean I’m fairly light-skinned and I don’t wear a turban or some big long beard (just the requisite hipster facial fuzz). So nobody suspected anything.
But that didn’t stop me from feeling pretty humiliated. It was dehumanizing. I’m Muslim, Neil. And Middle Eastern. I have a “funny name” and, well, I live in a neighborhood. And there are millions of people just like me who are Americans. Besides potentially being “bad” (i.e. terrorists), let me tell you what else we do, Neil, besides just live in your neighborhood. We deliver the paper. And we deliver babies. We operate machinery. And we operate on people. Yes, some of us we drive you around in cars.
And some of us built those cars and others of us designed those cars. We are parents and teachers and, some of us, are huge rock n’ roll fans. All pretty “good” things I think. And “funny name” by what standard exactly, Neil? Unless your name is Sitting Bull, you’re not originally from here either. Sure your ancestors may have come before I did, but that doesn’t make your name, Neil Percival Young, any funnier than mine.
Except that you’re not from here either are you? I immigrated with my family when I was 8 years old and became an American citizen at 15 while I was in high school. I love this great country with all my heart and along with my brother and sister have contributed to society. You and I both live in Los Angeles, but you, sir, are still a Canadian citizen. Well, I won’t judge. Welcome to MY neighborhood Neil, I’m sure you’ve found a lot of GOOD people from all over the world with all kinds of names that have been very welcoming. I’m a human being, Neil, and I have earned the dignity of being an American.
As Khizr Khan (unofficially the patron saint of Muslims if there can be such a thing), father of Humayun Khan, a brave soldier who died in Iraq in 2004, said at the Democratic National Convention “we have undivided loyalty to our country, and with hard work and goodness of this country, we share and contribute to its blessings”. I never again want to feel like I did today, Neil. Standing amongst 75,000 of my fellow Americans for the first time in my life I was made to feel that I was an outsider. At a rock concert. By a Canadian. Shame on you Neil. And shame on everybody else that was there that cheered. I have no doubt that if any other ethnic group was villainized, there would have been an uproar, or at least an uncomfortable silence (and appropriately so).
I don’t want to hear “yes, but some of you are terrorists”. I am not a terrorist. And millions and millions of Muslims, Middle Easterners, and other “funny named” people are just like me. Sincerely, Rabih Hamzeh PS: “Rabih” means spring time in Arabic and “Hamzeh” was the name of the uncle and protector of the prophet Muhammad. What does your name mean?
Hello Rabih,Thank you Micah for your well measured response. To say this is a profound and mature statement doesn't begin to do justice to Micah's clear spoken truth.
As a member of Neil Young's band (I'm the guy in the video playing guitar on the right) and his close friend I can assure you the sentiment of his song "Terrorist Suicide Hanggliders" is not what you've interpreted. The song is calling out the hypocrisy of the prejudice people here in our country, mainly Trump supporters who can't tell the difference between an innocent Muslim man and a terrorist. The song is a critique of shallow, narrow-minded viewpoints that sadly pervade our culture.
The character in the song is not "Neil". Neil is playing a character in the song, representing the racism and fear-based thinking that exists in America today. Neil plays other characters in his songs quite often to paint a picture of an opposing viewpoint while remaining detached from the perspective itself. Take a look at the verses of "Rocking in the Free World" for instance:
We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.
Keep on rockin' in the free world!
Much of that song is satire as well. Neil drives an electric car that he built and is a major advocate for alternative renewable energies and sustainable fuels.
Clearly these lyrics are an ironic statement designed to make people think more critically, or even just to think at all. Take the new verse he added about a year ago:
Got a water cannon for the standing man
Got misinformation from the corporation
In the endless search for a drop of oil
People's lives get shattered while we suck it from the soil
Gotta show the children
We just don't care
So we keep on burnin' it
And put it in the air
Keep on rockin in the free world!
Look especially at the line "Gotta show the children/We just don't care/So we keep on burnin' it/And put it in the air". Obviously Neil cares way more than most people about keeping oil in the ground for the sake of our children and the welfare of the Earth! So you see, it is simply an artistic statement, a powerful tool to present these views in a satirical way and expose them for how horrible they are.
I hope that helps clear things up for you. Neil Young is an artist who has nothing against you or any Muslim people.
Neil is one of the most outspoken people I know against people who hate others for reasons they don't understand. This song is intended to call bullshit on ignorant people who blindly follow fear-mongering in the established media, but just like most great art, it can be interpreted subjectively. I just want you to know that hating on Muslims is not Neil's intention -- it is in fact the opposite.
Neil loves you and is fighting with you against the contagious disease of hate.
Cheers, ~ Micah
And may all of our debates continue to be civil and well considered going forward towards that big shift". (Thanks HtH!)
More on satire and irony in Neil Young's song Rockin' In The Free World.