Saturday, June 16, 2012

God Save Neil Young

I love Neil Young, particularly for all the musical chances he takes, but it took an interview on National Public Radio (NPR) to realize how Canadian he remains even though he has lived most of his life in the United States.

He was appearing on Fresh Air. It's a daily interview program with host Terry Gross. Imagine a combination of Peter Gzowski and Vicki Gaberau. That's Terry. She's as much beloved by her American fans as Vicki and the late Peter are and were loved by their Canadian fans.

Terry was talking to Neil about his new record Americana and she seemed quite perplexed by his cover of God Save the Queen. I must admit I was too, until I heard Neil's explanation of why he decided to record a collection of old folk songs with his band Crazy Horse.

You can hear his explanation in the interview but it was plain to me that the interviewer REALLY wanted to hear Neil say he recorded the American folk songs because they were from his childhood and, well, the God Save the Queen thing was just lost on her. I'm not sure she really understood why he didn't record My Country 'Tis of Thee. (Musical Immigrant's digression: During another interview with a Canadian expat, the fellow mentioned John Diefenbaker. I was shocked when Terry Gross drew a blank and said. "Who's he?")

What this interview confirmed for me is that Americans don't understand the "otherness" that Canadian artists bring to the table. Young and many other artists who border hop to make a living never really lose their "outsider's" view of the United States of America. It shapes their world view and influences their art and it makes me appreciate them even more when they come home for a visit.

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