Neil Young has always displayed a concern for the natural world, particularly how it is affected by industrial activity, or civilization – whatever you’d like to call it. Even the sleeve of his first solo album (released in 1968) shows his face suspended between a psychedelic natural landscape above him, while the city encroaches from below – or is reflected in a lake.
“Broken Arrow”, “Whiskey Boot Hill”, “After the Gold Rush”, “Deep Forbidden Lake” – so many of his songs focus on the vexed boundaries between city and country, corralled and wild, polluted and pristine, occupier and native. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that last month Young swung through his birth country on tour with a serious purpose.
During a press conference in January ahead of his Massey Hall show the 68-year-old called the Harper administration “an embarrassment” to Canadians for its reckless and internationally condemned pursuit of dirty tar-sands oil. “Canada is trading integrity for money. That’s what’s happening under the current leadership in Canada, which is a very poor imitation of the George Bush administration in the United States and is lagging behind on the world stage…I see a government just completely out of control. Money is number one. Integrity isn’t even on the map.”
His Honor the Treaties tour drew attention to the plight of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, who live in the region now under development for the tar sands megaproject. He donated the proceeds of the tour to the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Legal Fund.
Speaking for all Canadians, Young added: “We made a deal with [First Nations] people, we are breaking our promise, we are killing these people, the blood of these people will be on modern Canada’s hands.”
Here he lays it all out in a press conference with David Suzuki and others:
He also took his message to the CBC:
Neil Young may live on his California ranch most of the time, but his Canadian roots abide, as he explains in “Born in Ontario”:
And since this is a Friday Flick post, here’s a clip from Neil’s self-directed and typically idiosyncratic documentary film Journey through the Past: