Of all the world's rock 'n' roll stars, Neil Young remains both the most familiar to us and the height of enigmatic.
Young makes movies that reflect his political viewpoints, tours frequently with back-up bands and as a soloist (and carries off both roles brilliantly) and doesn't give a hoot what critics think. He marches to his own drummer in all situations. It is a commendable way to live.
Young has emerged this fall with his memoir, entitled "Waging Heavy Peace." It is selling well in advance orders, reflecting the world's hunger to understand what Young's vision for success was and all the dirt in his nearly 50 years of fame.
I admire Young because he doesn't let other people define him. Throughout his life, he has always tried hard to expand musically and politically.
In the early '70s, for instance, he was riding high in his first wave of immense popularity. He had just released the mega-hit album "Harvest," including the popular single "Heart of Gold," and could have solidified his pop-star reputation with a cookie-cutter follow-up album.
Instead, Neil Young released a throwaway live album called "Time Fades Away," which few people ever talk about in the same conversation of such Young classic albums as "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," "After the Goldrush," "Harvest," "Rust Never Sleeps," Ragged Glory" and his well-known work with Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Young has been a musical presence in our lives since his mid-'60s explosion as a member of Buffalo Springfield. That accounts for nearly 50 years of success, reinvention and comebacks. He famously sang, "It's better to burn out than it is to rust," a sentiment which I suspect he would take back, if the rock 'n' roll gods gave him a mulligan.
Fortunately for his fans — including this reporter — Young has neither burnt out nor rusted. He has persevered through enormous health scares, lawsuits, fallow periods of popularity, and shifting political winds. He is still with us, making music and having an impact on our lives. That is what you call a star.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution," which is now available. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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