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Neil Young Nation : A Quest, an Obsession (and a True Story)
Neil Young will turn 60 in 2005. Kevin Chong will turn 30. To celebrate these two milestones, Chong sets off on a road trip in search of his boyhood hero. Crisscrossing the continent, he visits Winnipeg, where Young formed his first band; Toronto, where Young was a Yorkville folkie; Los Angeles, where he became a star with Buffalo Springfield; and other noteworthy stops before ending up in Seattle, where he finally sees Neil Young on stage. Along the way he spars with rabid Neil fans, talks to people who knew Young as a kid, and puzzles over Young's strange, sometimes contradictory pronouncements on such topics as digital music, the environment, AIDS, and Ronald Reagan. More than just an entertaining account of Chong's journey, Neil Young Nation is a celebration of rock and roll, contrarianism, the allure of the road, being cool, and aging gracefully.
The deep personal commitment that millions of rock fans make to their idols is sharply illustrated by Chong's belief that "Neil Young saved my life." The author, a recent Columbia M.F.A. graduate and novelist, shares the story of a journey he and three friends took through Winnipeg, Fort William (now Thunder Bay, Ontario), Toronto and Los Angeles--all areas where Young lived and worked from his 1950s childhood to his present-day fame. Chong talks with a writer who treasures the memory of being winked at by Young and a landlady who remembers that Young left a cigarette burn on her couch. The musician emerges an enigma, a leftist political artist who antagonized left-wingers by praising Reagan, while denouncing Nixon as "hippiedom's dark overlord." Tough about firing people when he had to, yet sensitive and willing to lay himself bare, Young comes across as recognizably human, despite the author's reverential tone. Chong has a flair for colorful descriptions and bringing character eccentricities alive, and he chooses appropriate Young lyrics to quote throughout the narrative. Penetrating as Chong's chronicle is, however, it sometimes meanders and would've benefited from a deeper look at the author's feelings. Photos. (Nov.)
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August 30, 2005
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