Neil Young, who recently flipped the bird to president Trump, has reached iconic status over a fifty year career by writing crappy song lyrics then singing them in a crappy soulless, whining voice. A regular fingernail-on-the-blackboard sound that would be better excused if accompanied by great lyrics. I am truly exasperated that he maintains a huge following, by mostly educated people, no less. I must be deaf. Or blind. Blind as the guy who embarrassingly gazes at an absurdly minimalist painting and misses the deep hidden transcendent meaning that all of his enlightened friends see in it.
For my money, Neil The Squeal Young edges out Jim Morrison as the most overblown so-called poet of pop music since the mid-20th century. They both could win the Jackson Pollock of Music Lifetime Achievement Award. You might ask who-the-hell am I to criticize a musical icon? A nobody like me? While I’ve never made a dime from writing, please excuse me for having a brain, a pretty good ear, a passion for great writing and almost fifty years of appreciation of top forty music. I haven’t listened to or read all of Neil Young’s hundreds of songs, (Better things to do, like clip my nails) and maybe he has written a few that are good, but just by surfing lyrics.com and other lyrics sites I detected a pattern of inanity loaded with vapid, silly, juvenile, insipid and laughable phrasing all punctuated by an overall lack of imagination and innovation.
I’ve naturally heard many of his hits (while a member of CSN&Y) and none of them are in my personal top thousand. Young’s lyrics are not so bad, some might argue. Especially when you compare them with some Gangsta Rap “lyrics” that promote killing whitey, burning the USA to the ground and demeaning and abusing women. Maybe they could then be called benignly mediocre. But if you compare them with hundreds of other song writers, they are indeed bad. Very bad.
For some seriously beautiful, heartfelt, sobering, truthful, wise, simple, funny, happy, forceful, ironical, witty, sad and intelligent lyrics, I recommend Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Leiber and Stoller, Allan Lee Gordon, Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Ray Davies, John Fogerty, Berry Gordy, Ron Argent, Carole King, Simon & Garfunkle, Bobby Gentry, Don McClain, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Sting, and several hundred others.
I have such a visceral dislike for this guy, that I think I’ll write a song about him. “A guy named Neil, he of the squeal; pulled a rabbit out of a hat, sang to millions ‘glad you liked that’; Words of a child, notes far worse, this bloody so-called singer is a musical curse; He’s a pompous ass, the worst of his kind, writes so bad, they should issue him a fine; They swear he’s a legend, his fans are agape, but I tell you as I stand here, he sings like an ape; His tortured phrasing, his butchered notes, he’s a drunk in a musical China shop, I’d rather hear the coyotes…
I admire many lyricists and singers who doubtless hold a left wing world view, particularly writers from the famed Brill Building in New York. However, my observations, from the people that I’ve met, clearly show that the leftwing musical compass always seems to point in one direction. That direction includes Young, John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, African music, especially Youssou N’Dour, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac and many others. I suppose I’m showing my age by excluding any artists post 1980’s. I’m certain though, that AT readers can add to the list.