For our fortieth anniversary, the editors of Rolling Stone have interviewed twenty artists and leaders who helped shape our time. Over the next four weeks, every day, we’ll be debuting exclusive audio clips from the Q&As, giving you unparalleled access to some of the most important personalities in history.
Today we present everyone’s favorite Canadian, rock troubadour and avid Lionel train set collector Neil Young. In his twilight years, Young is full of unrest. He’s transformed from that guy who sang “Cowgirl in the Sand,” who jammed with Pearl Jam, who spent way too much time with Crosby, Stills, and Nash into one of the most vocal artists to speak out against the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. We’d vote Neil for President, if only he weren’t a naturalized citizen. Talking to Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke, Young speaks at length about the Iraq War, including his take on a mandatory draft, rocking in the red states and why he likes being booed.
Young discusses the main difference between the students of the ’60s, who rabidly protested the Vietnam War, and the apathetic students of the ’00s: “It’s more important for them to get a job than it is to worry about the war. Because the economy is in shambles. Because no one is coming to the campuses and taking them over to Iraq. But as soon as they start doing that, you’ll see everything change immediately. It would be like night and day. These students are ready to rock — but nobody’s pushed the button.”
Neil Young gets off on the red states’ hatred toward him. Seriously: “We had a boo-o-meter on the tour. Irvine, California; Fresno, California; Atlanta, Georgia…maybe St. Louis, Missouri. Those were highest on the boo-o-meter…I was encouraged and rejuvenated by the reaction…”
Young isn’t trying to make you switch party lines. He’s just fighting for your freedom of speech: “We’re not changing anybody’s mind. We’re just making people come to the fore, who already feel that way but haven’t had the nerve or the time or the opportunity to make themselves heard.”
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of our twenty-part audio interviews, featuring some of the most iconic and influential pop culture figures of the last 40 years. Want a hint at tomorrow’s interviewee? He told us this:
“I was a scared kid. I was born a nervous wreck, and I think movies were one way of transferring my own private horrors to everyone else’s lives. It was less of an escape and more of an exorcism.”