Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll know that Neil Young was on a mini Canadian tour last week wherein he blasted the western oil sands, not to mention the Alberta and Canadian governments. In comments that were widely quoted he compared Fort McMurray, where many of the oil sands workers live, to Hiroshima. Sure that might have been a little over the top but hell, the guy's a rock star not a diplomat.
It was called the Honour The Treaties Tour and Young was raising funds for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation who say the government is ignoring their treaty rights through oil sands development.
I like Neil Young. I've followed his career and bought his records and CDs for years. I've attended his concerts.
This isn't the first time Young has spoken out against things that don't sit right with him. The best and earliest example is the quickly-penned Ohio, a best-selling effort critical of the Kent State shootings in 1970.
The most recent example was his Living With War CD and tour a couple of years back where he took the US government to task for it's role in the Iraq war.
But the Prime Minister's office and others have said Young should stick to music and keep his nose out of politics. Young, in an interview broadcast nationally on the CBC, responded - as only Neil could. You've gotta love his answer…
Young's always marched to the beat of his own drum. It's what makes him so endearing, so respected. It's a quality largely responsible for his shifting tastes in musical output, not to mention vehicles to deliver them be it as a solo act, with Crazy Horse or as part of Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
What's different this time is Young has set his sights on his native homeland - Canada. And he's given voice to something others in this country have chosen not to - the environmental mess that is the tar sands.
Some have been critical of Young. Mostly the oil producing companies and the Alberta and Canadian governments. Surprised? They have a vested interest. But he has a right to speak out. Last time I checked we were still living in a democracy in the great white north. And with democracy comes freedom of speech.
But criticism didn't stop Young, or the many folks who turned out to his news conferences and concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary.
This isn't just an aging rock star. As well as continuing to be musically relevant - his most recent release Psychedelic Pill has been nominated for a Grammy - he's also still socially relevant and has the capacity to make us stop and think about the "issues" in both cases.
Good on ya Neil. I agreed with you back in the day and I agree with you now.
God bless your heart of gold and keep on rocking' in the free world.