Neil Young has been contributing to pop culture with great songs full of catchy hooks and deep meaning for sixty years. Sixty years! Respect, right? To continually contribute positively to society for six decades is a truly memorable feat that others might crave, but Neil did it. You might even say Neil Young deserves to be on the #mountrushmore of rock songwriters…
Nope, that’s not Neil…
Still missing Neil…
Oh forget it!
Let’s try this another way. Neil Young should be celebrated for his great songs. The first thing we notice is that they have great hooks. Two examples that may come to mind are “Like a Hurricane” (who doesn’t want to be powerful like a hurricane?) and “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” (c’mon, that’s an anthem for success and power and greatness, am I right or what?).
But those of us who listen to Neil know it’s his lyrics that really make the song memorable. One reason is that they often offer a message significantly different than one would glean if they only skimmed, like, the hook. For example, “Like A Hurricane” might seem to be about power and supremacy, but if we consider the lyrics, the truth is very different:
Here we see that the speaker wants to love the person being addressed but instead needs to be somewhere safer, apparently due to the damage that person brings to the relationship. How devastating!
And then there’s “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” a title so winning people might put it on a list of songs to play before major events to get the crowd psyched.
But you would never use this song that way if you understood that the hooky chorus is ironic and actually serves as a blistering critique of failed leadership. Worse, the lyrics spell out those failures:
Wow, devastating lyrics that depict the many horrendous government failures at the time of its release. So we see the irony that the chorus sets up in contrast to the lyrics. Blistering and intelligent and easy to catch, if you bother to listen, of course. So blistering, in fact, that if the song was used to set the tone for a major event, it would be humiliating for the star attraction. I mean, she or he would know the meaning of songs used to represent them, right? The star would know at least that much, yes? Surely, they would because otherwise the reaction of the informed public would be laughter at such a buffoon. Who would willingly set themselves up for that? And imagine if such a clown stepped on a rake in this way while standing, say, a national monument? Can you imagine the national reaction?
Well, I am glad that didn’t happen. Happy birthday, America!