Neil Young’s Living With War

           neil-young-living-with-war-2006-front-cover-43720DO YOU REMEMBER JUST HOW BLEAK THINGS WERE DURING THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION?  (May we never forget.)   Preemptive War, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Secret Prisons, Special Rendition, warrantless wiretaps, spying on U.S. citizens, our soldiers caught in the middle of a society disintegrating into sectarian violence, Bush talking about the Bill of Rights’ being outmoded, and Blackwater’s making a mercenary army available to him.  Any of that ring a bell?  From my personal perspective, everything was made more interesting by our son Paul’s deciding that it would be a good time to join the Army.  On top of everything else, Bush and Cheney had been cutting the number EPA and OSHA inspectors to ineffectual levels and inviting oil company lobbyists into the White House to advise them on energy policy.  And on and on.  Dark days.  One Christmas around then I received a CD from my sister Linda.  Its cover looked like it’d been printed on a brown paper bag.  The only graphics were black block letters: NEIL  YOUNG and below that, LIVING  WITH  WAR.

           I looked at it and thought, Gee, thanks.  Just what I needed.  I usually listen to music when I do Tai Chi, and one morning sometime just after the new year, for some reason, I put the album on while I did my Tai Chi.  A minute into the second song I started laughing, not because it was funny—it wasn’t—but because it was so damn good.  And true.   The song was “Living With War”: 

 

I’m living with war everyday

I’m living with war in my heart every day

I’m living with war right now

 And when the dawn breaks I see my fellow man

And on the screen we kill and we’re killed again

And when the night falls I pray for Peace

Try to remember Peace

I join the multitudes

I raise my hand in Peace

I never bow to the laws of the thought police

I take a holy vow

To never kill again

 I’m living with war in my heart.

I’m living with war in my heart and my mind

I’m living with war right now

 Don’t take no tidal wave

Don’t take no mass grave

Don’t take no smokin’ gun

To show how the west was won

But when the curtain falls I pray for Peace

Try to remember Peace

In the crowded streets

In the big hotels

In the mosques and the doors of the old museum

I take a holy vow

To never kill again

Try to remember Peace

The rocket’s red glare

Bombs bursting in air

Give proof through the night

That our flag is still there

 I’m living with war everyday

I’m living with war in my heart everyday

I’m living with war right now

I’m living with war right now

I’m living with war in my heart everyday

I’m living with war right now.

 

           The album knocked me out: the best thing I’d heard from Neil Young since Harvest or After The Gold Rush.  The songs’ arrangements were pretty much standard folk-rock, except the distortion on the guitars, including the rhythm guitar, was cranked  way up.  It was the words that made the album for me, though.  I’d been wondering why no one’d been writing songs about all the political and military stuff going down.  I mean, given the situation, how could people still be making songs about let’s get down and party?  And calling Young’s delivery of the lyrics impassioned would be a gross understatement; he was freaking enraged, almost incoherent at times.  At the time, the album was like a breath of fresh air or shot of adrenaline to me. 

            And I’m an admirer of Barack Obama, but we’re still living with war, aren’t we? 

           Anyway, rummaging through the console in my Taurus the other day, I came across the CD, and I put it on.  It brought that whole time-frame back to mind.  I’m glad it’s over.  

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About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

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