Inspiration Through Music: Neil Young

I’m going to be totally honest. Before I started working on my apocalyptic novel, I had only heard of Neil Young. I hadn’t listened to any of his music. Well, that’s not true actually. I’d heard Harvest Moon and Heart of Gold on the radio but I never knew those were his songs. I just happened to be working on a scene for my book a week ago and came to a scene where I needed the main character to choose a musician that they weren’t a fan of. Of course, off the top of my head, I thought of Neil Young, because when I was younger, I had decided that I wasn’t a fan of his (even though I didn’t have a clear understanding of his music.) And of course, while searching through some of his music on Spotify (my new favorite tool), I instantly felt bad that I’d ignored his music for so long. It is piercing, beautiful, and carries a kind of fire that reminds me of Bob Dylan. However, Young’s music, to me, seems to hit me in a different place. It seems to tangle with human emotion more intimately and really fleshes out those emotions when I’m writing.

Neil Young is a Canadian singer-songwriter who has been influential since the sixties when he started singing. He’s sung with several well-known bands including Crosby, Stills, & Nash and Crazy Horse. He’s known by some as the “Godfather of Grunge.” There are several grunge bands that I enjoy, so it’s nice to see where the genre kind of gained its momentum. Today, I have 6 songs of Young’s to share with you today and what I think of when I listen to them.

Harvest Moon: An unusually warm breeze spills down over the hill toward the car parked there. The two of them sit inside, a bottle of bourbon between them. They sit there, staring out across the water toward the bridge, toward the little lights of the cars as they cross in the darkness. The moon brightens the sky to a point where it seems unnatural. She hadn’t wanted to talk with him. Even though he was one of her closest friends, she couldn’t bring herself to admit that she’d made a mistake, one that had cost her the love of her life, his best friend. He was so calm about it though. He hadn’t pushed her, hadn’t tried to nose into her business. He just asked her if she wanted a drink. And even now, he hadn’t said anything more about it, just casually commented on the view or the taste of the bourbon. Finally, she cracks and everything comes spilling out. He watches her as she loses herself in the tide of regret. He reaches over and pets her hair, and tells her that everyone makes mistakes. It’s not the end of the world.

Down By The River: The bar is nearly empty that night. The temperature is in the low 20’s and most are at home preparing for the oncoming storm. He, however, sits at the counter, staring at his shot of whisky. He’d go home but it’s not his home anymore. She doesn’t want him there just because of something he said, because his tongue moved at the same speed as his thoughts and let them loose. Who knew if she’d even let him come back after they “talked” some more about it. He knew they were on a steady descent. It had started with the new house and had moved into talk of the neighborhood they lived in, the danger of his job, and her worries about raising a child there. He didn’t want to move. And he thought she was over-reacting. He was happy. Why wasn’t she? He finally downs the scotch and orders another, just as the first snowflakes begin to fall outside.

My, My, Hey, Hey: She looks at the old wrinkled picture. It’s the last thing that she has left of him, the only piece of someone who has been gone and yet, has somehow survived within her. She folds up the picture and puts it in her pocket, a smile warming her lips. She won’t let him go. She knows he’s still watching over her, even if she can’t see him or hear him. She has survived thus far. And she knows she has the strength to keep going. She climbs into her car, bundles up in her sweater before turning on the ignition, and driving away from the familiarity of the city and toward something new, something she hopes will be the beginning of something good.

Cowgirl in the Sand: She remembers the night she met him. She’d arrived late to an office party being given for someone who was retiring. She’d only started working there a few days ago. She hardly knew anyone and the mistake she’d made earlier that day had left people laughing at her. They didn’t think much of her and probably wouldn’t. She ordered a drink from the bar and wandered around, trying to join a few groups conversations. But it was all inside jokes, or situations she couldn’t relate to. She tried, but then they’d look at her as if she had a second head. She slumps into a chair at the bar and is just telling herself that she should go home when an unfamiliar voice asks if he can join her. She recognizes him. He’s one of the notable guys at her work, someone who the others all seem to get along with. He has a presence and is known for doing his job well. At first, she has doubts about why he’s sitting next to her, but then she realizes that he empathizes with her and that he’s not really much of a social butterfly either. They spend the rest of the evening talking, and it turns out that it’s like they’ve known each other their whole lives.

Someone’s Gonna Rescue You: A red sun peeks up over the horizon and the image there seems to wibble and wobble in front of her tired eyes. She’s been driving the whole night, trying to keep from falling asleep. She’d had fleeting thoughts of stopping but wouldn’t, not after what she’d seen the previous night, after what she’d witnessed. She glances into the passenger seat. He seems to be asleep, completely dead to the world. She cringes at her choice of words. He is dead. He shouldn’t be there. And yet, he’s as real as she was, as those things were last night. And what’s more, he told her to keep driving until sun up. She wouldn’t stop until it was high in the sky.

Heart of Gold: The old song crackles over the radio, the static cutting into it. It aggravates her. She wishes it would just play clearly or not play at all. She’s determined to change the station but, at the same time, she can’t. The song brings back too many memories, hits too many sore spots in her that make her want to be inside those good times, those better times. Nostalgia is almost so sweet that it’s sickening. When the song finally ends, it’s like reliving the ending all over again… realizing that it is now and not then and she has to live with the decisions she made.

Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be choosing some music from the gifted composer, Daniel Licht, who’s most notable work comes from the television show, Dexter. Stay tuned!



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