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Sunday, June 14, 2020

(RE-) PREMIERE*: "Sun Green" from RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse | NYA #BeTheRain

UPDATED: Originally published on April 14, 2020*
"Sun Green" in "Greendale" by Neil Young

The song "Sun Green" from "RETURN TO GREENDALE" film is scheduled to re-premiere* on Monday, June 15 in Hearse Theater | Neil Young Archives.

Here at Thrasher's Wheat, we're always trying to do a little Greendale livin' so we're quite excited to view and re-live our Greendale memories.

Neil Young & Sun Green
Radio City Music Hall, New York, March 18, 2004

Photo by thrashette

Directed by L.A. Johnson and Bernard Shakey, RETURN TO GREENDALE is performed live in Toronto with full cast. A premiere screening of the film RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse was held at Balboa Theater in San Francisco, CA on Jan 28, 2020, where much of the cast and crew attended, as we reported. Each Monday features a chapter from Greendale on NYA.

"There's Corruption on THE HIGHEST FLOOR"
(and most of the floors below, too) : Yet More Inconvenient Truth in Greendale

From Neil Young Archives
Sun Green comes of age and starts makin’ waves.

This is the second last song in our series.

What you have been watching is a work in progress that will be completed in early June and prepared for release on vinyl and blu-ray. It was going to be in theaters . . . but that’s not safe for you right now. Maybe later! Blu-ray is the best quality available today. Better than streaming because it’s a clearer picture with superior sound. That’s the way to watch at home and get it all! Quality whether you want it or not!
love Neil
be well

John Lee's Bar
via Neil Young Archives

From Venice Magazine interview (February 2004) on making a difference:
YOUNG: "Well, I think it is incumbent upon me, with Greendale out there, to do everything that I can to try to live up to Sun Green's vision of what the world should be like, and the kind of changes people should make. Which is more like, "Put your money where your mouth is.

And it's slow, a painfully slow process, but one of the things that we are doing is starting to power our vehicles for this next tour with bio-fuel that has no emissions that damage the ozone, 75 to 80% less pollution than normal diesel, and we'll just try to make a statement that, "Hey, this is something you can do right now, I could be driving around in my SUV or Hummer burning vegetable oil." The thing everybody hates about those is how wasteful they are. The fact that it's big, it's in the way, it's macho, and it's polluting the fucking planet and wasting fuel while it's doing it, it's pouring gallons and gallons of gasoline through one of these things, that's what bothers people."
As we've argued repeatedly over the years about the vastly underrated and under appreciated Greendale, the inconvenient truth of Greendale was that Sun Green -- and Neil Young -- were right.

And -- inconveniently -- the job is bigger than saving just Alaska.

We've Got A Job To Do -
We've Got To Save Alaska!

The inconvenient truth of Greendale is that regardless of whether you loved it or hated it, it was "the most important album of 2003, the musical equivalent of Silent Spring".

Now that is clear that the classic capitalist economic model is seriously flawed we need to understand how best to re-engineer our societies. Because we have now reached the fork in the road and must make a serious choice -- continue in the direction were heading or choose the hidden path which is less traveled.

Sun Green (Sarah White, Greendale Film by Neil Young, 2003) + Greta Thunberg (Climate Activist, Born in 2003)

These days in the Neil Young fan community, there has been much discussion on the prophecy of Neil Young's Greendale and it's central character Sun Green relative to Greta Thunberg, the internationally known climate activist.

Sarah White as "Sun Green"

In Neil Young's 2003 album, tour and film titled Greendale, the central role of Sun Green was played by Sarah White. Notably, she wears her blond hair in braids nearly exactly as Greta Thunberg. Coincidentally, Greta was also born in 2003, the same year that Neil Young's Greendale was conceived.

Neil Young has stated in interviews that he was inspired to create the character 'Sun Green' in the spirit of environmental activist Julia Butterfly.

Julia "Butterfly" Hill - 1998

Julia Butterfly is best known for having lived in a 180-foot-tall, roughly 1,500-year-old California redwood tree for 738 days between December 10, 1997 and December 18, 1999. Julia received a fair amount of media attention in the 90's for her activist efforts and inspired many to action.

Sun Green in Neil Young's Greendale Concert Tour - 2003

In Neil Young's Greendale song "Sun Green", the lyrics directly reference Julia Butterfly.

"She'd [Sun Green] still like to meet Julia Butterfly
and see what remedy brings
and be a goddess in the planet wars
tryin' to save the livin' things

But that might not be easy
livin' on the run
Mother Earth has many enemies
there's much work to be done"

"Be a goddess in the planet wars"
Greta, Sun Green, Julia Butterfly & Neil Young's "Greendale"

A fair amount of discussion on our recent posting on Greta and "Greendale".

Here is the Comment of the Moment on "Greta Thunberg and Neil Young's Prophetic Greendale: Sun Green + Julia Butterfly" by Dan S.:
Greta is following her own specific path. It is hers alone to walk.

Activists have been around forever, and it is those who actually make a difference who are most remembered after they’re gone. Even when they fail. The fact that Greta is even being mentioned here is evidence that she is making a difference, and I for one want to celebrate that with her. Perhaps getting anointed by Time Magazine as “person of the year” wasn’t all that helpful to her cause, but it did get everyone’s attention. I’m sure she could care less, frankly.

She’s calling out to fellow young people to get up and start speaking out to fight for their future. It’s about time young people start to wake up and let their voices be heard. She’s kicking her generation into gear; certainly someone had to. Technology has numbed us into an isolating fog, and if Greta can wake them up, then perhaps we can all make a difference. Who knows. Maybe the young people can become the catalyst to make the big difference in the world again.

Hearse Theatre just played a live Ohio yesterday, and it reminded me of when music was a call to arms for people to wake up and take on the world. To stand up and say “enough”!!! If Greta can do that, then God’s speed to her and her friends.

She’s fearless with her condemnation of the world governments lack of leadership and address the potential solutions that frankly are painfully obvious to this old man. Neil Young has made it clear that he understands where this young woman is coming from and although she probably isn’t concerned about what Neil Young thinks, it does illustrate her impact up to now. Not to forget how our man in the White House reacted, saying: “she has anger issues” which is something he knows intimately. Once again, she got his attention.

Greendale came out a while ago, and at the time it was not completely embraced by all of Neil’s fans, yet many of us were thrilled with this remarkable album. Here we are in 2020 and it now seems more relevant what Greendale was, and is today. With Greta, Sun Green (the fictional character) has materialized in the flesh. She’s not sitting in a tree or chained to a statue, but she is making a difference. Right now.

So keep on rocking in the free world Greta, for as long as it is free. Good luck fighting the good fight for your future, and ours. I’m with you.

Thank you Dan -- as always -- for your well measured and thoughtful comment.

"Sun Green" and "EARTH Brown"

Obviously, this is a difficult subject based on our past experience as well as reaction to the recent posting. We appreciate everyone taking a breath before hitting the keyboards. Certainly time seems to have mellowed everyone since Greendale's original release back in 2003. When we put the post together recently, it was somewhat shocking to re-read comments and their level of hostility to the album. It was almost disproportionate in its backlash, relative to it's relatively mild message, especially when compared to Living With War, which really took the Neil hostility to whole new level.

"Truth is all I seek" - Sun Green

"The White House always blames the Governor, sayin',
'the solution is to vote him out'" - Sun Green

More on .

"And hope has always been the tone of youth."
Frame from Greendale Graphic Novel by Joshua Dysart/Cliff Chiang

On Neil Young's website, he posted the following message on Greta Thunberg Speaks: Please Listen | NYA in March 2019:

"I have been told she is a lot like Sun Green from Greendale. But Sun Green is a lot like her."
So, the comparisons between the fictional Sun Green and non-fictional Greta Thunberg, caused some to cry foul, essentially saying that Greta Thunberg ain't no Julia Butterfly (or for that matter, Sun Green either). All just a coincidence, certainly -- although mathematically impossible -- past proves future. Right on cue ...

For example, Mark, who commented (on Premiere: RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Balboa Theater, San Francisco, CA - Jan 28, 2020 ):
........ oh please

.... please do not defile my vision of Sun Green by equating her righteously welding herself to the Eagle's beak w/ Saint Greta's dancing across the water on a high school gap year global road trip aboard a billionaire donated, luxury yacht

'She was welded to the eagle's beak
sun green leaned into that megaphone
and said, "truth is all i seek" '
"Sun Green"
by Neil Young

However, many others do see Greta Thunberg as a legitimate heir to the Sun Green / Julia Butterfly legendary figures in her climate activism quest.

For example, Neil Young fan Peacelover Doc, commented (on Premiere: RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Balboa Theater, San Francisco, CA - Jan 28, 2020 ):
Many climate change deniers want to silence this girl so they can continue to use up this planet and leave her generation with the mess. That's bullshit & Greta Thunberg, is speaking truth to power.

That's pretty Sun Greenish to me.

Greta Thunberg: "Be a goddess in the planet wars"?

Mark, who kick started this conversation here on TW, did return to defend his original supposition that Greta's "low risk" efforts were unworthy of sainthood in the spirit of Sun Green / Julia Butterfly. Mark then comments (on Premiere: RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse @ Balboa Theater, San Francisco, CA - Jan 28, 2020 ):
Julia Butterfly didn’t traipse around the world with a camera crew & related entourage directing her toward people to scowl at & berate. She spent two years IN A TREE, and by virtue of her sacrifice & risk of life, brought warranted attention to her cause.

Sun Green welded herself to the eagles beak in her home town.

And I, for the above reasons, do not equate St. Greta with either.

John Lennon said, around the time of that first Earth Day, that ‘a working class hero is something to be’.

Mark is a guy who believes passionately in where he lives & works endlessly to make it better.

He’s no star, not on TV anymore and doesn’t attract a crowd, but his work still stands.

Think Globally, act locally.
Be the Rain, people.

"Be the Rain, You Understand" - Grandma to Sun
Frame via Greendale Graphic Novel
By Joshua Dysart/Cliff Chiang

"Be the Rain!" - Sun Green
Frame via Greendale Graphic Novel
By Joshua Dysart/Cliff Chiang

greendale flag
be the rain
Poster for "Live From Greeendale" - Neil Young & Crazy Horse


The Greendale Backstory

Sun Green (Sara White) and Grandpa (Ben Keith)

A premiere screening of the film RETURN TO GREENDALE by Neil Young & Crazy Horse was held at Balboa Theater in San Francisco, CA on Jan 28, 2020.

Neil Young calls "Greendale" on Times-Contrarian | NYA "one of the biggest highlights of my filming life".

"Sun had a poetry about her"
Frame via Greendale Graphic Novel
By Joshua Dysart/Cliff Chiang

But back in 2003, "Greendale" was one of the most controversial and divisive albums and concert tours of Neil Young's career.

The musical and lyrical importance of "Greendale" can not be understated - either in terms of Neil Young's body of work, nor its impact on his fan base.

Sun Green - Art by Cliff Chiang
Inside The Making of Neil Young’s Greendale Graphic Novel

As many of our long time readers here at Thrasher's Wheat know, we have long since declared: "The Inconvenient Truth of Greendale".

Neil Young’s Greendale
Written by Joshua Dysart, Illustrated by Cliff Chiang

The inconvenient truth of Neil Young's Greendale is that he was right -- and his message is even more relevant today than upon Greendale's original release.

Greendale Album Cover

Greendale is "Everything You're Looking For" - Bandit

The inconvenient truth of Greendale is its uncomfortable confrontation with themes such as the power of mass media and global corporations, loss of personal freedoms and privacy, destruction of the environment, rampant fraud and corruption, an out of balance government and breakdown of the family. All of which we've detailed before here, here, and here.

"a little Mayberry livin' can go a long way"
GREENDALE 2020 HINDSIGHT by James Mazzeo

More on Sun Green in the "compelling", "controversial" and "audiences challenging" concert opera "Greendale" by Neil Young.

"This church was above war. Above politics. Above apathy. Above greed. This church was boundless."
via Neil Young’s Greendale Graphic Novel - Written by Joshua Dysart, Illustrated by Cliff Chiang
(Click image to enlarge)

Be the Rain. Be the Change. Be the Wheat.

“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

-- Ancient Indian Proverb

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At 4/15/2020 11:53:00 AM, Blogger GDTRFB71 said...

Buffalo showing again Saturday, fyi.

At 4/15/2020 02:28:00 PM, Blogger LuckyPaul said...

I’ve never heard of the real person’Julia Butterfly’ before now, living in a tree for two years didn’t get her or her cause enough publicity to reach me. I thought Greendale was wonderful right from the start, so pleased to have been sat close to the stage to hear it right out of Neil’s mouth (Hammersmith Odeon, row six, just left of centre) so yeah Sun Green, great character, and woo woo, Greta Thunberg born that year, coincidence? synchronicity? god / great spirit / aliens having a laugh? That’s not for me to know but responding to ‘Mark’ who seems to want to put down Greta while sanctifying Sun Green ( Green / Greta - two five letter words with the same first three letters - it’s a sign!? or maybe not) in my opinion Greta has done more than probably anyone to get the message out there - and at what a time - right before this virus thing gives us all the once in a millennium opportunity to restart the planet in a sustainable way.

At 4/15/2020 04:25:00 PM, Blogger DREman said...

Comprehensive post Thrasher. I mean, you really went all-out on your coverage of this song/topic. Nice job.
I find it really hard to believe that this song is 17 years old.

At 4/15/2020 04:45:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ akiv1971 - Thanks, Buffalo is definitely worth a revisit. A fire on the rail night, if ever.

@ LuckyPaul - ’Julia Butterfly’ did generate quite a bit of local coverage back in the 90s in N. Calif areas.

Her tree sitting delayed logging for quite sometime. Another skirmish in jobs vs environ battles.

Yes, lots of Sun Green / Greta synchronicities. But as someone else pointed out, If Greta is based on Sun Green, and Sun Green is based on Julia Butterfly, the who was Julia based on?

The character Pippi_Longstocking, possibly.

So, Hammersmith Odeon? Those were the early acoustic only shows, right?

We didn't make that let but we tried to make as many G-dale concerts as we could after being gobsmacked by our 1st. Think we made about 6 concerts across 2003/4. Even considered heading to AUS/NZ leg.

@ DREman - thank you for noticing and commenting.

Often times we do wonder? So always nice to get a little validation beyond some thumbs up and traffic surges.

Yes, it is really hard to believe that this song is 17 year old. Not only is "There Corruption on THE HIGHEST FLOOR" still, but its even worse and more pervasive than ever.

And on and on it goes.

Not too many us left banging the drum and seeking justice. The concern of this generation is that after we're gone, will anyone behind us pick up the megaphone and weld themselves to the eagles beak?

Greta? You're still young but time is slipping away fast. Time to up your game all you SG & EBs!

Us Grandpas & Ediths aren't even able to rock on the porch anymore in our quarantined states.

"be a goddess in the planet wars"
thrashers rising

At 4/16/2020 05:27:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Most of the time, when I write something about Neil's music I'll do so right here on Thrasher's blog.

But occasionally, when my medication wears off, I will dazedly step out into the wider world. I am HUNGRY, frantically searching for someone who doesn't appreciate Greendale so I lecture them in my usual exasperating and pontificating tone, a crazed look in my eye, my fangs as sharp as icicles (etc).

And then the medication kicks back in, and I revert to my "normal" human state.

Anyway, here is something that I wrote on the weirdest corner of the 'net, that I thought some of you may relate to:

Greendale isn't just the quirky, crazy, oddball, light-relief album you all think it is.

It is an album about life (and death). Neil's own life, but also what he sees in the world. And from our perspective, it's about our lives.

The characters in this story aren't just a bunch of oddities, they are expressions of our lives, our emotions, our relationships, our desires.

When Officer Carmichael is shot down by Jed, it's obvious to me that the grief of his widow is something that Neil and Crazy Horse are feeling.

Not necessarily because they particular care about fictional Carmichael's family. But because they too have people to grieve, people who have been snatched from them and left them "talking to the wall". They can relate.

And when Grandpa has died on the porch and Sun Green takes him over his dinner, unaware he's dead and about to be told she won't be seeing him again. We've all had experiences like that, haven't we?

*"When I picked up the telephone and heard that he died..."*

Greendale is a very creative album of very real, very multi-layered emotion. That's why Neil puts this one up there with Tonight's The Night; not just because it's a nice picture-book to watch until On The Beach or Hitchhiker comes back on again.

You have to remember what it was like to be Sun Green. Or Carmichael's widow. Or Grandpa. It's no good being on the outside looking in.

You have to start to relate to these characters and their lives, as you would the characters in a movie or a novel.

That's the key that unlocks to the door to this very remarkable album.


At 4/16/2020 05:36:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Thrasher: thank you for maintaining your blog. I'm sure a lot of people appreciate your effort.

The discussion here over the last few years has always been thoughtful and often lively, with many differing worldviews, outlooks and opinions: for me that's part of the fun.


At 4/16/2020 09:43:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Scotsman - Thanks so much for the words here. Curious as to "weirdest corner of the 'net"?

thought TW had that market pegged.?!

As always, thanks for your insightful contributions -- once again demonstrating that Neil fans/rusties are some of the most knowledgeable and articulate music fans out there. Your words inspire us to carry on here.

17 years since Greendale. So much has changed and yet so little to show. Our job is now even bigger than saving just Alaska. Undaunted we go out into the fields for another day ...

At 6/16/2020 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

As a student in what partly resembles your American high school and college 35 years ago we were debating our physics teachers' position that we can't do without nuclear energy in Germany. They laughed about our proposals to use solar and wind power to substitute both non-renewable and non-sustainable highly controversial energy resources. Tschernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima (2011) "helped" a lot to win over the vast majority in our country including phycisist and chancellor Merkel. In the 80's nobody in my country believed that 40% of our electricity would be generated by renewable resources 35 years later and that we would be phasing out nuclear energy production. The districts around (admittedly very wealthy) Munich are now aiming at a 100% electricity from renewables and gradually they are getting there. Change comes slow in the country.
The automotive industry was considered to be the backbone of the German industrial production. In the past when the going got rough for these companies they always made sure that there was a bail-out coming, paid by the tax-payer. The usual "too big to fail" argument seemd to work every time. Now, under the Corona interdictum, the mighty car industry utterly failed to once more getting paid for their own inflexibility. This time there will be no premiums to replace an old car with yet another gas-guzzling SUV. (That Boris J.'s hope that this industry will make sure that the EU will knuckle under his government's fantasies of a re-newed empire for the sake of the British automotive market will go down the drain also, that goes without saying...)
The Green party in this country is preparing to be part of the next federal government. Nowadays they appear a somewhat lukewarm version of what they once were in their street-fighting days, but still they are there, a competitive force to be reckoned with.
Not all is well, not in my country, we still got a huge job to do, but depending from where you start to bring about change it is not "so little to show". What it does show, however, is that the US is falling behind. And the rest of the free world wished that would be different.

At 6/17/2020 05:22:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Dionys - thanks so much for the German perspective here. Very appreciated to hear from various parts of the world.

for sure, change comes slow in the country. but it comes eventually -- peacefully or otherwise, it comes...

meanwhile, as you know -- stay calm & keep on rockin'!

@ Everyone out there on The EARTH - please share your views here anytime. We always like to hear from outside the USA bubble.


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