Today is November 12, and it is Neil Young’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Neil! You are 68 years old and just as grumpy and restless and loving and fierce as ever. I haven’t heard your latest record because I am tardy like that, but I have been listening to lots of After the Gold Rush and Zuma and Harvest lately. I’m sure you hate that and want me to move on from your past. That’s a good lesson, but I just can’t let go quite yet. The stuff’s too good.
A long time ago, you taught me how to look for the champion inside of dudes, and it changed my life. I learned to let your music and life example color my perception of the world and its inhabitants, and overall meditated deeply on your particular brand of personhood: your combination of honor, integrity, authenticity and don’t-give-a-shitness. But lately, I’m thinking how being a Neilers applies to myself as a lady-type and human being in general. How to create great enduring work with the simplest of elements, like how you’ve created a bajillion immortal songs from just campfire chords, words, and some melodies. How to stay committed politically and socially, even when the world constantly disappoints you, putting the fight in your might again and again despite the odds. How to take your own personal tragedies and challenges and grow them into opportunities to give to the world at large. How to let your ire evolve into something laser-sharp and heat-seeking and purposeful. How to love well and deeply and fiercely. Big-picture stuff, I guess. Older people stuff, stuff I would’ve laughed at as a kid but feel ready for now.
I’ve always appreciated Neil Young the musician, once I got over the association in my mind between classic rock and frat boys and jocks I got from high school and college. I appreciated the Neil Young brand of masculinity. Now I’m moving onto Neil Young as the enduring, immutable force of nature: how to endure, how to stay true to your path, even if it winds through the thickets of commercial unviability, how to be an icon to yourself in your own life. Not in a vainglorious way — if anything, Neil, you’re aggressively humble. But you’re kind of my guru on how to be kind of a mensch, a stand-up down-home kind of gentlewoman, a thoughtful being who can still rock. Thanks for being you, for being loud and for keeping on.
I wrote my best Neiler thing ever for nogoodforme.com, which was subsequently pubbed in my book . In honor of my unofficial Neil Young Day, the ! Enjoy, you lovely rascals!
Tags: appreciation, birthdays, Neil Young