Neil Young. Waging Heavy Peace. Blue Rider Press, New York, 2012.
Although the slender one is fortunate enough to be a real godfather, there since the christening of a young Estonian lass, of whose achievements to date he can be justifiably proud and impressed, the term when bandied about in music circles is a rarified one. Ray Charles and James Brown received the honorific for rhythm & blues and soul, respectively. Neil Young has been termed the godfather of grunge, not exactly the slimster's favourite musical category.
However, Mr Young’s contributions to Canadian rock and roll and musical innovation cannot be denied, and when one adds his interest in ecofuels, electrical cars as well as significant contributions to the education of those born with severe speech, language and movement difficulties through technology, the man is a giant in not only the music world. And yes, his waging of peace must be considered one of serious avoirdupois effect.
His autobiography merits reading for more than what has been mentioned above. A little known fact is that Young survived childhood polio, contracting the affliction before Jonas Salk’s efforts to eradicate the crippling disease. His sons Zeke, with his first wife, Carrie, and Ben with Pegi, present spouse and wife number two, have lived with other physical, emotional and speech challenges. And while the book makes no mention of Estonians it must be a given, considering how pervasive our presence is in music of all types, ranging from classical to popular, that he encountered at least one talented esto musician, if not in Winnipeg, the home of his formative musical years, then in Toronto, California, elsewhere on the international stage.
This work reads very much like one would expect it to do. Free-form, simple yet at the same time complex thoughts are explored, leaving an indelible impression on the reader. The temptation to compare his writing to his astounding guitar and vocal work on numerous classics recorded with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or the seminal band Crazy Horse (still together and playing today) is hard to ignore. However, discover for yourself how Young’s travels have influenced many budding musicians.
As expected, anecdotes abound. Did you know that Young once was present to hear Charlie Manson noodle and improvise, on Young’s guitar no less, just days before the infamous Sharon Tate-LaBianca murders committed by Manson and his demented helter-skelter followers? In the same house where those crimes later took place? Photographs taken over the years also add to the value of this book, presently at the top of Canadian non-fiction bestseller lists.
Further bonus material can be found when Young talks about his collections – guitars, cars and model railroad trains. His father Scott, a well-known sportswriter, is also remembered in a most favourable light.
Should you be a Young fan, or even interested in those heady 1960-s through to today, then this is a recommended read. The underfed one found much to his liking, and is willing to venture, that some day an Estonian-Canadian will publish his or her own memoir, detailing how Young left an influence on their development.