I just finished Neil Young’s autobiography/memoir collection, “Waging Heavy Peace.” Like everything the rock legend has produced, even his book is a hit-and-miss affair.
As a big fan of Young’s music, I went into this book with a lot of knowledge of his career. This book has many references a lot of casual fans will probably miss. I would recommend “Shaky: The Official Biography of Neil Young” to read first before launching into Young’s rambling, heartfelt accounts. Because Young certainly recalls things from his past differently from what some who were interviewed in “Shaky” do. One example of this is the rocky friendship he had with former band mate Stephen Stills. In Young’s account, the two got along wonderfully. In “Shaky,” friends and members of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY repeatedly discuss the rivalry between the two in both groups over control.
What is endearing about “Waging Heavy Peace” is Young’s ability, over time, to come to terms with his past behavior, thanking those who helped along the way and avoiding mudslinging (sans his rants against Geffen Records when he signed to the label in the ’80s).
I did not go into this book expecting him to give detailed accounts of the highs and lows of his life. The book reads as if he were sitting next to you and telling stories of his past and present. It pretty much reads like a Neil Young album sounds.
There are a few major themes in this book: his family, his friends who have passed away, Crazy Horse, cars, trains and PureTone/Pono (his high quality streaming music venture). The music quality aspect does get unnerving because it seemingly pops into his brain all the time. He could be writing a chapter on making some album, then suddenly he goes on some tangent on how music doesn’t sound as good as it used to. Insightful at first, but gets annoying quite quickly.
There are some interesting nuggets in the book as well. He once tried to help cult leader/killer Charles Manson a record contract in the ’60s. He tried to reach out to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain around the time of his suicide. Perhaps interesting to me (from a journalism point of view) is his distaste for reporters. He has been burned by reporters quite a bit, most notable was a couple of Associated Press reporters who ragged on President Reagan to Young in the ’80s so much that he ended up defending the president. Then they labeled him as a staunch Reagan supporter. That apparently still miffs him to this day.
But overall, this was an entertaining read. It gives the reader a slight glimpse into the thought process of one of rock n roll’s most enduring artists.