Book Review – Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
I have the utmost respect for Neil Young as an artist. But the artist has a reputation of being difficult to work with. He has been known to drop a band or a project to follow his next obsession with seemingly little regard to the hurt feelings he can cause. But that is the price he has chosen when he follows his muse wherever and whenever she may lead him. When his muse leads him to write this book he dropped the already booked and planned Buffalo Springfield reunion tour with Stephen Stills and Richie Fury. Stills, whom had been down this road with Neil many times, just shrugged it off with a ‘Neil’s gotta follow the muse‘ comment.
His book, Waging Heavy Peace, is not your standard memoir. Actually it reads like a bunch of random blog entries…rambling blog entries. Neil has three big topics that he will always come back to…cars, the shitty quality of today’s compressed digital music, and death. Not that those topics aren’t interesting, but when you are going to read a biography you are looking for a little insight on how or why the person did something in their past…be that a famous event or a private moment. Neil’s book is very light on anything with much depth or illumination.
Neil did write this book without assistance from a co-author or ghost writer and that is impressive. But, to be honest, he could have used a little advice on tightening the book up, some encouragement to let loose with a couple of juicy stories and to yell ‘REDUNDANT!‘ when he talks about the state of modern sound quality for the tenth time. There is no problem with the way he has chosen to present his book, but what he has chosen to write about amounts to a bunch of fluff.
Now there is the possibility that I am just an uber fan that knew all the subjects Neil hit on in the book. I was listening to Terry Gross interview Neil on her show Fresh Air and when she said that some things (like Neil being epileptic, his son having cerebral palsy and being a quadriplegic, that he was in a band with Rick James and they were signed to Motown) were a surprise to her I had to pause and realize that not everybody is as versed in Neil Young lore as I am.
There are some heart warming passages of people important to Neil and his career that have died. He looks back with melancholy on those times he ran with David Briggs, Ben Keith and Larry Johnson…you can feel the love he had for those men. His love for his children and his wife Pegi is represented throughout the book. There are some good moments in the book, just not enough of them.
If you are a casual fan you may find this book more entertaining than I did. If you are a hardcore fan…well, you are going to read it anyway. But the definitive Neil Young biography is still the book by Jimmy McDonough, Shakey.
2.5 out of 5 Stars