I spent the bulk of my formative years in Canada, including going to high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba with Neil Young. Neil performed regularly at our school assemblies and in other venues, to significant acclaim, but I must confess that, while we all thought he would be a success in the music business, none of us thought he was headed for superstardom. We actually did not know what an embarrassment of riches we had in Winnipeg at the time. The band that performed at all proms and other big events was from a rival high school, and was known then as Chad Allan and the Reflections. They later became the Guess Who, and then, for some of the band members, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Not bad for high school entertainment, huh? Of late, I have found many of my high school classmates also reflecting back on those days, and we have had a series of fun email exchanges recalling good and funny times.
I was never close to Neil, but we shared friends, like Pete Barber, in common. Other classmates, like Clancy Smith, were immortalized in song (Nowadays, Clancy Can't Even Sing.) I always loved his music, bought all of his albums (although I had some difficulty with the garage band phase) and followed his career avidly. One of the great highlights of my life came in the early 1970s, when Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were on their first tour and came to Washington to perform at the old Capitol Centre. I called him up and was able to stand on stage during the performance, an incredible high.
His music has only gotten better, and the new album, Prairie Wind, is stunningly good, a warm reflection on family, roots and mortality, with the songs written in a couple of weeks after he learned about his aneurysm. Yesterday, I saw the new Jonathan Demme movie Neil Young: Heart of Gold. It is stunning, the best concert movie I have ever seen, visually compelling, aurally mesmerizing. It celebrates him, but it also honors all the camily of musicians he has in Nashville. If you like Neil Young, see it, several times. And go on the website to sign the petition to get the wonderful album Time Fade Away, never released in anything other than vinyl form and long unavailable, out there for all of us to appreciate regularly.