Neil Young – An invitation to Stand Up!

by Bruce Mason

Neil Young playing guitar• The worldwide People’s Climate March on September 21 marked a global tipping point in climate change awareness and action. One reason for that is Neil Young’s release of his anthemic Who’s Gonna Stand Up?

“I’m giving you permission to please use this music in videos, clips and communications, or in any way you see fit during this critical time. I hope this music can assist you in the important work we do to reach out for understanding and action in the world,” he wrote, one day before hundreds of thousands of people marched across the world.

James Jean posterAs debate and dreams either linger in nightmare or morph into reawakening, recall such songs as Ohio, Southern Man and Rockin’ in the Free World. At NeilYoung.com, he posted three free audio tracks: a stripped down 3:49 minute acoustic version of Who’s Gonna Stand Up?, a hard rocking 5:49-minute remastered live recording with Crazy Horse and an epic, sweeping 4:22 minute orchestral version, with more than 60 of the industry’s finest musicians and a 30-voice choir. Something for anyone who can still hear.

For anyone who still reads, his new book, Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars, is being released this month. A collection of original artwork, lyrics and extraordinary reminiscences about his Canadian boyhood, music, family and passions, the book is structured around his love for gorgeous, gas-guzzling vintage automobiles – a dizzying, enigmatic parade of classic vehicles he purchases as rewards to himself. It’s a stream of consciousness, with pounds of Panama Red, profound regret for past behaviour, unforgettable characters and challenges thrown in for good measure.

“I bought my cars for their soul,” he writes. “They all had stories. I would sit in them and feel the stories and then write songs from those feelings. Cars carry their memories with them. To me my cars are alive. All cars are… They are the art of their time, a mirror through which you can see the American story.”

Who’s Gonna Stand Up?By Neil Young
Protect the wild, tomorrow’s child
Protect the land from the greed of man
Take down the dams, stand up to oilProtect the plants and renew the soil.
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
This all starts with you and me.
Damn the dams, save the rivers
Starve the takers and feed the givers
Build a dream, save the world
We’re the people know as Earth.
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
This all starts with you and me.
Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
Before we build, one more pipeline
Ban fracking now, save the waters
And build a life, for our sons and daughters.
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
Who’s gonna stand up and save the Earth?
This all starts with you and me.
Who’s gonna stand up?
Who’s gonna stand up?
Who’s gonna stand up?
Who’s gonna stand up?
Who’s gonna stand up?
This song is available for free at NeilYoung.com

Neil Young Special Deluxe Memoir book coverSpecial Deluxe is a feast for fans, especially those who love, or have loved, cars. Want to go back for seconds after his best-selling first book Waging Heavy Peace? Pig out in the backseat of his Lincvolt along the high road to the Alberta Tar Sands. Enjoy a healthy snack in a banquet of consequences now being served in an unappetizing, bad menu, with far too much information. Turn to page 302 and bite down:

“My thinking about the environment and the damage being done to it had mostly come from examples of big corporations raping the land and destroying natural things in the endless quest for oil and energy. The more I thought about it, the more obsessed I became with alternative energy. The more I looked, the more I learned about what an immense challenge the world was facing. That’s when I began dedicating myself more to the task of raising awareness, which is pretty much the only thing a celebrity can do. But I was fascinated with the technology side, too. What were the solutions? What had been tried? Why did some projects fail? And the marketing side – why did people not get it? Why did they not understand the world’s situation? Why did the media, especially TV networks, downplay and ignore the obvious so consistently, making it virtually impossible for the masses to grasp reality as far as the importance of climate change was concerned?”

This personal epiphany and sudden ferocious devotion to clean energy is an example, an inspiration and road-map. Mother Nature is scolding: “Go to your room and stay there until you pick up your mess!” Time to grow up, give it up, do the work and grow in the company of friends and leaders like Neil, who are giving us the beat of different drums and new ways, options and opportunities to cleanse.

No sense in asking him to “shut up!” on the current Blue Dot Tour or ongoing solo shows and performances with Crazy Horse. Waste of time. Disgraced media may wallow in the dissolution of his 36-year marriage. But Special Deluxe is, in many ways, a loving tribute to his wife. It’s painful, folks, and change is complicated.

Besides, Neil Young is now a moving target and force of nature, relentlessly moving on, releasing A Letter Home, a solo acoustic collection of cover songs, and writing a third book, which he says is a science fiction novel.

In the meantime, he‘s pointing the way by asking “Who will stand up?” Pointing to the driver’s seat and beyond. Urging us to take control and provide our own answers to his existential question.

What a time – what a ride we’re on! Consider taking a good book and a great song to share along the way. Neil is out front, knowing we can change if we want to badly enough, urging us to “stand up!” against what is really bad and more than enough.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

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