Neil Young takes a dig at Bush
Had Neil Young released a song titled Let’s Impeach the President three years ago, he would have been exiled to the fringes of American music: just ask the Dixie Chicks.
But he released it on April 28—and there could be few better indicators of how much has changed than the question Young was asked on TV recently. Wasn’t he just cynically cashing in, the CNN interviewer wanted to know, on the fact that so many people hate George W Bush?
The singer-songwriter insisted he wasn’t.
But, with the president’s approval rating down to 33% in some polls, his lowest ever, such an overt message from a musician of Young’s stature could find a large audience.
“Let’s impeach the president for lying / And leading our country into war,” urges the lyric, which was leaked to the Fox News Channel. “Abusing all the power that we gave him / And shipping all our money out the door.”
The rest of the tirade, to be released initially on Young’s website, takes in civil liberties infringements (“Let’s impeach the president for spying”) along with Hurricane Katrina and religious fundamentalism, while mockingly praising Bush for focusing instead on eliminating the use of steroids in baseball. It comes from a forthcoming album, Living With War, that also features the tracks Shock and Awe and Lookin’ for a Leader.
“I feel like I’m exercising my right of free speech, which is what our boys are fighting for the Iraqi people to have,” the 60-year-old singer said. He was “not in the least bit concerned” about a backlash, he added. “I expect it.”
The stridency of Young’s tone is particularly significant because he does not come from the unequivocally left-wing tradition of singers such as Bob Dylan or Steve Earle. On one hand, his early hit Ohio addressed the Kent State University shootings, in which four anti-war students were killed, and Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World is generally taken as an indictment of Ronald Reagan. On the other hand, he supported the Patriot Act—widely condemned for eroding civil liberties—and released a song, Let’s Roll, that spoke to mainstream patriotism after 9/11.
“Living With War is a fierce, comprehensive indictment of the Bush administration and all its failures, but it doesn’t feel like an outsider’s dissent,” wrote one reviewer, in the singer’s native Canada. “It’s the work of someone who clearly identifies with the core values of ordinary middle Americans who voted for Bush.”
Unfortunately, Young’s nationality could be an Achilles heel. “How would the people of Canada feel if an American artist devoted an entire record to telling the world what a bad place Canada is?” Fox host Neil Cavuto demanded.
Ian Peddie, an expert on protest music who teaches at the University of Texas, said: “I don’t think this song is going to be a new We Shall Overcome. But Neil Young is very well respected. This is the considered response of a serious musician, so we should take it seriously.”—Â