Neil Young’s Journey to Hippie Music

Neil Young's Journey to Hippie Music

At 77, Neil Young is still a hippie at heart: ‘I feel a lot of hope’ in a world ‘that’s falling apart’

Neil Young’s music is at once a soundtrack to our times and a blueprint for the future. In his eight-decade career there have been many highs, and one moment that encapsulates his entire journey is on his cover of the Beatles’ White Album — the album most of us have never heard, because its 1967 release was delayed for copyright reasons.

A couple of decades after it was made, Young’s 1967 song Let It Roll finally came out, and its initial response was tepid. After all, the Beatles had a couple of hit singles under their belts, and their single White Album only had two tracks, “The Long and Winding Road/With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Paperback Writer.”

By 1967, Young was an established rock ‘n’ roll star, but he had yet to have a hit. In fact, his album American Pie didn’t even release until 1970.

Then, in January of 1967, just one month after the Beatles made theirs with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, someone asked Young if he’d like to make a new sound. They wanted a “rock song” but also wanted it to be a “hippy song.”

“I thought, ‘That’s a strange question.’ Because I didn’t really feel that we were that far away from hippies,” Young told the Washington Post in an interview that originally appeared in 2010. “I felt that we were a little bit beyond that. Our music was about freedom of expression and freedom of expression of thought. We were not trying to change the world as much as we wanted to change ourselves.”

A couple of times, he’d considered trying to make a record with that kind of hippie feel but felt it was out of his character. Then, in January, he was told “if we’re going to do it, it’ll have to be out of the blue book.”

According to Young, Paul McCartney had heard

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