It turns out that my summer is already great. I have a ticket to the Neil Young and Patti Smith concert. Can there be such a pairing for 75$. Thank the gods and goddesses of music there is.

Aside from his new disc - Americana - Young also has a book out called Waging Heavy Peace, which I readily admit I have yet to read. However both Young and Smith were the subject of a recent New Yorker (see link below) and Young was asked about the meaning of Heart of Gold from his priceless album Harest. He declined to elaborate.

So that means I can ramble about Heart of Gold a bit, what it may or may not mean. I think it does have meaning beyond the obvious or perhaps beyond the singular. It came out about a 1 1/2 years after After the Gold Rush which most think was his ode to woodstock and the hippie movement, and which also roughly coincides with Ohio, seen as one of the greatest most timely protest songs written (I won't debate that). Many writers of the time and since wondered why the song didn't unleash another wave of protest songs in the 70s. Neil continued to write his own, bands like The Who did but not on such a personal scale - Won't Get Fooled Again was their recollection of the hippie movement and woodstock (which they were never much part of).

Alas along came the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Linda Rondstadt, Anne Murray (why not) and disco and no more protest songs in the public's ear. Maybe Saturday Night Fever was a comment of disco excesses while being excessive itself or maybe S_A_T_U_R_D_A_Y Night was a comment of teenage sex. In fact it was Patti Smith and her New York cohorts who brought protest back by being loud and obnoxious and just bullying their way in. Then it went to england and punk became a movement in time.

Back to Heart of Gold - it could mean that he's seeking clarity of heart amid all this turmoil, it could mean that he's searching for the same in someone else recognizing his own flaws (I remember reading a quote in which he said it was hard to believe he had to write the song ohio and that he capitalized on the death on the students - I don't think he meant money but it was a huge hit).

But it could also be the follow up to After the Gold Rush and how he despairs that the protests and moments didn't lead to something larger, a bigger, more loving community that seemed to vanish in the early 70s. Some have said it's also about cocaine in part and how drugs don't solve things and kept him searching. It could his plea to get back to the land as it mentions Redwood where his ranch is located. It could be about his search for redemption after perhaps feeling slightly abused by the entire hippie/woodstock thing. One last interesting thing - the chorus changes from 'it keeps me searching...' to 'you keep me searching ...' internal to external. My disappointment in me to disappointment in you as a generation?

But it certainly is about traveling and searching to find something better. Perhaps the seeming simplicity of the song is why he never explains, our own explanations are much too wrought over.

Still it's fun to think about a great song. 

New Yorker Article

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