Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Keep On Rockin' In The Free World!

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was my first exposure to serious adult music when I was about 12 years old. I quickly gravitated away from Graham Nash and David Crosby and toward Stephen Stills and Neil Young. Something about the songs of those two singer-songwriters touched the outsider in me and spoke to the budding tragic sensibility that still colors how I view the world. (I confess, that's a bit melodramatic. A 12 year old with a sense of tragedy? I was raised Catholic, okay? And I started reading adult fiction from the library at about age 10 and history books soon after.)

Stills was my first favorite musician. The day his music died for me came in college almost 10 years later when he gave a concert at my school. The show was professional and I liked it for sentimental reasons alone, but it was clear that Stills was an artist past his prime. It didn't help that the next day I had a brush with fame with him and his entourage at a local mall where they were looking for a sporting goods store. I didn't know where he could buy a football and he wasn't interested in hearing a fan say nice things about him. His entouragees apologized but there it is.

Young was my other favorite and remains so. Unlike Stills, Young has kept his artistic edge over the years. He produced one great album after another throughout the 1970s and since then he has given us good albums like Hawks and Doves, Freedom, Harvest Moon, Greendale, and even Trans.

The last show I saw of Young's was the road show for his album, Greendale. The album was a concept that told the story of a small town being changed by larger forces. The live show was a musical play with actors playing the parts of characters in the songs being performed by Young and his band. The play ended with a rousing, patriotic, flag-waving number with the entire cast dancing and singing. The play was clearly an attempt by Young to redefine patriotism and recapture the flag for the dispossessed in America and those fighting to save the planet. Even with all the American flags waving on stage, the performance was not preachy, which is a testament to Young's artistic talent.

Perhaps another testament to Young's talent and continuing relevance is the performance today at a San Diego neighborhood bar of various local musicians playing covers of Young's music. It was his birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday, Neil. Long may you run.


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