Neil Young Releases Weirdly Patriotic Song And Video For The Fourth Of July

Neil Young just wouldn’t be Neil Young without all the protest songs he has written and performed over the years. Ever since the song “Ohio” grabbed the country by the throat in the summer of 1970, Neil Young has been throwing it down, naming names and taking stands for everything he believes in.

It’s a good thing he is a very prolific writer and has written hundreds of great non-political songs too, because as time has marched on, a lot of his political material turned into angry, unpleasant screeds, whether you agree with him or not. His 2006 album Living With War is a virtually unlistenable compilation of political anger about the Bush administration that lacks much of the artistry Young normally commands. Let’s just say the song “Let’s Impeach The President” from that album will never be confused for “Sugar Mountain” or “Comes A Time”.

Of course Neil Young is not about to stop taking stands, but maybe he is beginning to see that his views could gain more traction if they were presented in some form other than enraged polemic. Like Mama used to say, honey gets you more than vinegar, right?

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Young has just released a single and a video for a song called “Children Of Destiny”, and the song’s message is couched in terms that only extremists would disagree with. The video, replete with American flags everywhere and happy children in a pastoral setting, is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The whole thing is a real curveball coming from the crotchety Canadian rocker, and it’s all pretty weird and interesting.

Designed to be released on the Fourth of July, the track was recorded in the last couple of weeks with the backing of Promise Of The Real, the band featuring Willie Nelson’s son Lukas which also backed up Young on his 2015 album The Monsanto Years. “Children Of Destiny” has a military march feel to it, a feeling enhanced by the 56-piece orchestra that rum-pum-pums right along with Neil and the band.

The song is political alright, but very non-confrontationally so. You could almost call it generic in that very few people could take serious issue with the lyrical content:

Stand up for what you believe
Resist the powers that be
Preserve the ways of democracy
For the Children of Destiny
The children of you and me

The video features not just the Stars and Stripes and freckly-faced kiddies, it’s also got shots of purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain, with a shot of military fighter jets thrown in for good measure. These are images for patriots of any political stripe. The only hints of partisanship are shots of recent protest marches on Washington, but I guess the point Neil is making is that protest is not just a right but a responsibility of all Americans, no matter their particular set of views.

The whole thing is a subtle gesture of conciliation at a time when Americans desperately need to find common ground with one another. Good on Neil Young for giving it the old college try.


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