Neil Young’s poetry is without a doubt superb. Young isn’t afraid to express himself, whether it be through explosive rock with Crazy Horse or seductive ballads with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. He has long maintained his reputation in the music industry, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
1. They were hiding behind hay bales / They were planting in the full moon / They had given all they had / For something new – Thrasher
This tender acoustic song explores Young’s thoughts on his time spent working with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. He admitted in 1995 that he had concerns the group had lost its focus and that leaving CSN had given him a sense of liberation. In the lines from “Thrasher” mentioned above, Young remembers the band’s glory days before he left, allowing for a brief moment of nostalgia.
2. There’s one more kid / That will never go to school / Never get to fall in love / Never get to be cool – Rockin’ in the Free World
The song “Rockin’ in the Free World” is a criticism of Bush Sr.-era culture. Throughout the song, he makes observations about his place in society, the government, and (as evidenced in the lines above) the cycle of poverty it can perpetuate. There’s a reason why it’s one of Young’s most well-known tunes. He investigates every angle on this one.
3. I see bloody fountains / And ten million dune buggies coming down the mountains / Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars / But I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars – Revolution Blues
The 1969 Charles Manson murders served as the inspiration for Young’s latest biting social commentary, “Revolution Blues.” In the lines above, he makes allusions to Manson’s beliefs in the impending end of the world while also making generalizations about upper-class culture. It can also be interpreted as a jab at his Laurel Canyon bandmates, who Young always felt awkward around.
4. Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself / When you’re old enough to repay / But young enough to sell? – Tell Me Why
Young, a celebrated songwriter, isn’t embarrassed to acknowledge that occasionally he has no idea what he’s singing about. One such song is “Tell Me Why.” The lyrics above “sound like nonsense” to Young, according to his autobiography Shakey. He is renowned for not editing his songs; instead, he just went with the flow and, unknowing him, came up with a masterpiece.
5. And I saw you in my nightmares / But I’ll see you in my dreams / And I might live a thousand years / Before I know what that means – Barstool Blues
Young deals with a broken relationship in “Barstool Blues.” Though he’s not sure what to make of it, she is so embedded in his memory that he thinks about her even when he’s asleep. It is straightforward, relatable, and poetic—characteristic of Young’s lyrics.
6. Sometimes I think that I know / What love’s all about / And when I see the light / I know I’ll be all right – Philadelphia
“Philadelphia,” a song about LGBTQ+ rights that was created for the soundtrack of the 1993 drama film of the same name, is political. The lyrical content was undoubtedly influenced by the film, which tells the tale of a gay man who tries to sue his employers after being fired for having AIDS. He begins the song with the aforementioned lines, adding some hope to the otherwise dire circumstances.