NEIL YOUNG + PROMISE OF THE REAL – “Neighborhood”
Thrasher’s Wheat is a great, informative blog for Neil Young fans, with concert and album updates, reviews, analysis, and other Rock & Roll ramblings. “Separating the wheat from the chaff since 1996.”
Micah Nelson wrote this moving letter in response to a letter written by a Muslim-American fan to express his concerns about the lyrics to Neil Young’s song, “Neighborhood”. Rabih Hamzeh posted his “Open Letter to Neil Young on the YouTube page comments,
Micah Nelson responded and reached out:
As a member of Neil Young’s band (I’m the guy in the video playing guitar on the right) and his close friend I can assure you the sentiment of his song “Terrorist Suicide Hanggliders” is not what you’ve interpreted. The song is calling out the hypocrisy of the prejudice people here in our country, mainly Trump supporters who can’t tell the difference between an innocent Muslim man and a terrorist. The song is a critique of shallow, narrow-minded viewpoints that sadly pervade our culture.
The character in the song is not “Neil”. Neil is playing a character in the song, representing the racism and fear-based thinking that exists in America today. Neil plays other characters in his songs quite often to paint a picture of an opposing viewpoint while remaining detached from the perspective itself. Take a look at the verses of “Rocking in the Free World” for instance:
We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world!
Much of that song is satire as well. Neil drives an electric car that he built and is a major advocate for alternative renewable energies and sustainable fuels.
Clearly these lyrics are an ironic statement designed to make people think more critically, or even just to think at all. Take the new verse he added about a year ago:
Got a water cannon for the standing man
Got misinformation from the corporation
In the endless search for a drop of oil
People’s lives get shattered while we suck it from the soil
Gotta show the children
We just don’t care
So we keep on burnin’ it
And put it in the air
Keep on rockin in the free world!
Look especially at the line “Gotta show the children/We just don’t care/So we keep on burnin’ it/And put it in the air”. Obviously Neil cares way more than most people about keeping oil in the ground for the sake of our children and the welfare of the Earth! So you see, it is simply an artistic statement, a powerful tool to present these views in a satirical way and expose them for how horrible they are.
I hope that helps clear things up for you. Neil Young is an artist who has nothing against you or any Muslim people.
Neil is one of the most outspoken people I know against people who hate others for reasons they don’t understand. This song is intended to call bullshit on ignorant people who blindly follow fear-mongering in the established media, but just like most great art, it can be interpreted subjectively. I just want you to know that hating on Muslims is not Neil’s intention — it is in fact the opposite.
Neil loves you and is fighting with you against the contagious disease of hate.
Cheers, ~ Micah