‘Waging Heavy Peace’ is Neil Young’s 500 page autobiography. He used no ghostwriter or collaborator; he just sat down and started typing in such an easy, conversational style that the reader can imagine themselves sitting down with him in front of a fire, listening to him talk.
The book covers his life from childhood to present; his music, his friends, his failed relationships, his children, his fellow musicians, his health (lots of problems), his love of toy trains and big old 1950s and ‘60s cars, and his two current projects: Lincvolt, an old Continental turned into an electric car; and Pono (originally PureTone), a super high quality music system that can be streamed. It’s a bit of a ramble; he jumps from the here and now- what is happening with the Lincvolt project, with Pono- to his early days, starting out in music; then to a reverie about The Horse, as he refers to Crazy Horse, his long time band, which he speaks of as an entity that is more than the people who make it up. He mentions more than once that, on his doctor’s advice, he has quit smoking pot and drinking. His father had dementia, and the doctor has seen a shadowy ‘something’ on a brain MRI. He points out that since he quit, he has not written one bit of music, and you can tell there is some fear there that this dry spell might be more than a spell. But he’s still got lots of projects going; even if he was to never write another note of music he’d still be busy for the next 40 years at least. I do hope that does not turn out to be the case, though!
More than once I got lost as to what point in time Young was writing about after a sudden switch, which forced me to go back a couple of pages and see where I’d missed the transition, but it’s small price to pay for this journey through his past. I found the passages about his music the most interesting, how the songs related to things that were going on in his life. He wrote ‘Cinnamon Girl’, ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’, and ‘Down By the River’ in one feverish day while he had a bad case of the flue. Another album was written while he waited for the operation to repair a brain aneurysm. The sheer volume of things Young has accomplished is amazing: all the music, the benefit performances, the Bridge School, Farm Aid, his work on model train advancements, Lincvolt, Pono, creating ways for his quadriplegic son to be included in everything the family does. He is an inspiration. Long may he run.