I’ve been a fan of Neil Young for many years now. It all started with, Buffalo Springfield, after that came Young’s solo albums along with various other incarnations. His music is contentious at times and harsh but melodic. A prolific songwriter which provides for a constant state of flux, Neil changes direction like the wind which is why he’s still viable today.
But the thing that drew me to Neil’s music is the lyrics. They have a way of capturing you like a question. A line juxtaposed here or there that changes the very philosophy of the song itself.
I have included three songs which have influenced me but as you may have guessed, many more could be added to this list. So write on.
Love Is A Rose
Love is a rose but you better not pick it
It only grows when it’s on the vine
A hand full of thorns and you know you’ve missed it
Lose your love when you say the word mine.
The first song awakens you with the last line, lose your love when you say the word mine. And this could go further as the word ‘mine’ evokes a Buddhist philosophy of non-attachment amid the rest of the song with the image of a rose, so beautiful to look at but laced with thorns if you try to grab it.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
When you were young
and on your own
How did it feel
to be alone?
I was always thinking
of games that I was playing.
Trying to make
the best of my time.
But only love
can break your heart
Try to be sure
right from the start
What if your world
should fall apart?
The chorus in this song seems to be straightforward, ‘only love can break your heart’, but it’s the second verse which gives us pause.
I have a friend
I’ve never seen
He hides his head
inside a dream
Someone should call him
and see if he can come out.
Try to lose
the time that he’s found.
Who is this friend we’ve never seen, hiding his head inside a dream? It’s clear that Neil is talking about what Jung might call the shadow self. We are the ones we hope to find. Call him and tell him he can come out.
Star of Bethlehem
Ain’t it hard when you wake up in the morning
and you find out that those other days are gone?
All you have is memories of happiness
All your dreams and your lovers won’t protect you
they’re only passing through you in the end
they’ll leave you stripped of all that they can get to
and wait for you to come back again.
Yet still, a light is shining
from that lamp on down the hall
maybe a star of Bethlehem
wasn’t a star at all.
The third song we come to concerns life and the tragedy it can bring. The first two verses speak of someone who has come to there wit’s end, barely keeping up in life’s game of chance. And then suddenly the third verse sings to us of hope, faith, and forgiveness. For there is a star that’s shining that’s not a star at all. It is what we make of life and love that guides our lives. For it is not whom we forgive but if we can forgive ourselves.
*Image courtesy of Pixabay