Monday, December 31, 2012

Staff Pick - Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

Pragmatic Neil Young (M) tells us that he is writing this memoir in order to make money enough to be able to hold off performing until his broken toe heals. He is also now sober due to a fear of dementia and reveals that he has never written a song while sober - up to the point of writing this book. With those introductory tidbits out of the way, he begins Waging Heavy Peace: a hippie dream (M).

Young's memoir has a conversational feel to it. He starts with his interests - music, cars, trains - and eventually moves on to friends and family. Much like a conversation in person, the tone is light and informational and grows warmer and more confiding with each chapter, almost as if he grows more trusting with either his own writing or with the reader as he progresses. At no point do you get the sense that the book has been polished by a ghost writer, but rather there is a sincerity to his stream of consciousness-like technique as he reveals at little and then seemingly pulls back to make sure he wants to continue with the revelation.

This is really quite a quirky book as it gravitates between personal memoir and infomercial. Young's business interests are his Puretone Sound System (Pono) which is trying to address the problems associated with the deteriorated sound associated with digital compression and his Lincvolt - a large hybrid which he hopes will run on clean energy and be able to be mass produced. He is a lover of large automobiles and acknowledges that North Americans want to drive big cars and wishes to find a clean and sustainable way to do this. And his model trains. He also loves his model trains.

I won't reprise Neil Young's musical career here beyond to say that it has spanned five decades as a solo artist and as a part of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young generating a lengthy discography and many many awards. He paints an intriguing picture of life in California in 1960s and 1970s and what life can look like when success comes early. It takes him a bit of time to open up about his family, but when he writes of his wife, his tone almost becomes lyrical. You can sense the warmth he feels for his children and are touched by his pride in his son Zeke Young who supports himself with a job at Home Depot despite having cerebral palsy. He refers less often to his daughter, referring early on to her giving up drinking and then not mentioning it again, obviously respecting her privacy.

OK, just one anecdote. Neil Young and friends were visiting a Costco in Hawaii - apparently as a way to bring themselves back to reality after being surrounded by paradise. Young was marveling about the large selection of products in very large containers. From there they went to a used record store where he saw a bin containing his cds. He was saddened to think that someone was finished listening to his music. And  I was a little sad for him too.

Since Then: how I survived everything and lived to tell about it (M) by David Crosby. "Since Then is both a self-skewering look at the twists and turns of an impossibly rich life, and Crosby's confident declaration that it's far too soon for him to don the robe and slippers of Generational Elder. As a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he has an unparalleled legacy as a singer, songwriter, and musician-and few would object if he were to rest on his laurels. Yet despite Crosby's history of extravagant excess, he's never forgotten his great good fortune, and has never stopped using his enormous gifts in service of both his art and social causes to which he is committed."

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