On May 4, 1970, the National Guard shot four students at Kent State University who were protesting against the Vietnam War. The fan inspired 25-year-old Neil Young to write “Ohio,” which has become the peaceful anthem of American counterculture.
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In 2014, the rock legend is still in the spotlight. He has gathered thousands of listeners in a cornfield. The popular singer criticized the environmentally harmful mining of oil sands, which violates the rights of Native Americans.
From protest singer to environmental activist, Neil Young’s career seems to have been both linear and predictable. But appearances are deceiving. In his picture, Thomas Bogut also looks at little-known sides of the outstanding businessman and sound artist.
[„Neil Young – Songwriter ohne Kompromisse“, Arte, Freitag, 21 Uhr 45]
The middle-class Canadian musician is pretty much the opposite of a glamorous rock star. He is modest, loves country life and appears in the shirt of a lumberjack. The pain he’s experienced since contracting polio when he was six has left its mark. Later, two of his sons developed cerebral palsy. Suffering increased his sympathy for the problems of others.
In 1985, for example, he was a participant in the Farm Aid initiative, a charity concert that has been going on for 35 years now. Young supports family businesses whose farms have been threatened after agricultural subsidies were cut. After that, he later recorded a concept album denouncing farmers’ reliance on seed giant Monsanto.
Commitment to farmers
With this commitment to farmers, whom he saw as “the true Americans,” Neil Young established himself as a patriot. The singer is American values. Many on the left resented his support for Republican Ronald Reagan. Young was even harsher on subsequent presidents. In 2007 George W. Bush called for his resignation with the protest song “Let’s Impeach the President”. He went to court against Donald Trump for playing his anthem “Rockin’ In The Free World” at campaign events against Young’s will.
It is often hidden that Neil Young did not join the anti-nuclear movement in 1979 after the reactor accident on Three Mile Island. On the contrary, he emphasized: “I think nuclear power is good.” This inconsistency, as the film makes clear, is the source of his creativity. Time and time again the rebel has captured the strong. In the 1980s, MTV boycotted a video in which Young mocked the lavish commercial marketing of advertising.
flops with “across”
His stubborn head sometimes got in his way. The technical album “Trans”, which was based on “Kraftwerk” in 1983, failed. His ambitious project PonoMusic was also unsuccessful. As a hi-fi enthusiast, Young wanted to offer a good alternative to the poor sound quality of podcast providers: “It’s about hearing what we’re hearing in the studio,” he explained. Neil Young did not hear.
He was not discouraged by such failures. In 2015, his all-American preference for fuel-efficient luxury cars made him think. So he converted his Lincoln Continental into a Tesla hippie with batteries powered by a biodiesel unit.
Pop with Spotty
Sometimes Thomas Bogot puts his unsolicited comments in a bit. However, he managed to paint a portrait of a now 76-year-old artist who never made it easy for himself, but remained true to himself: in protest of podcasts spreading false information about Corona, he recently took over the streaming provider Spotify.