So we’ve been listening to Neil Young in the car lately, as one does. The kids seem OK with it, they like the big rock songs and his guitar skronk freakouts. They thought it was a girl singing in After The Goldrush. Anyway.
Southern Man comes on, and from the backseat my son says “Dad, what’s this song about?” Well. Trying to tread my way through it, I carefully explainedhow it is anti-racism and anti-violence and calls for slavery reparations so that two kids (11 and 8) could understand the song a bit. I also briefly explained Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response in Sweet Home Alabama… I patted myself on the back for navigating that one to their satisfaction (and mine) but man, it was quick thinking on my feet.
Then Ohio came up next. My son asks the same question. So. I carefully try to explain about the Kent State protests and what happened. As a result, both kids requested I skip the rest of that track, and I was OK with that. So we skip ahead and the next track is…
The Needle And The Damage Done. Hooboy. So of course they asked, and I explained this one, which went better because they’ve had anti-drug stuff at school already. However, no amount of explaining the song as a cautionary tale about how Young lost people close to him because of drugs helped because, at this point, Neil was a bit too heavy for them.
I get it. I do. They’re kids. Those are hefty songs, both musically and when you pay attention to the lyrics and messages. It’s a win, I think, to know that they are reminded that there’s a big world out there, and people can use music to actually say things, not just “baby baby” love songs or “let’s party” rock songs. We’ll get there, Neil, we’ll get there.