- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Blue Rider Press; 1 edition (September 25, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0399159460
- ISBN-13: 978-0399159466
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 748 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #263,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Waging Heavy Peace Hardcover – September 25, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In his lively, rollicking, high-spirited, and reflective memoir, Young, the hugely influential Canadian singer-songwriter invites readers to sit down on his porch for comfortable conversations about his guitars, his bands, his cars, his inventions, his trains (he owns a small share in Lionel), and his family. Musically, he ruminates, he may or may not have peaked because "other things continue to grow and develop long afterward, enriching and growing the spirit and the soul." Young openly shares intimate moments of life with his sons, Zeke and Ben, who suffer from cerebral palsy, and his artist daughter, Amber, devoting entire chapters to the ways they have changed his life, as well as to his beloved wife, Pegi, and their life together. Like one of his long, inventive jams, Young weaves crystalline lyrics and notes about friends Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, and Bruce Springsteen, former band mates Stephen Stills, and the late great pedal steel player Ben Keith of the Stray Gators, with reflections on the enduring beauty of nature, and the lasting power and influence of music. (Oct.)
“Elliptical and personal…Waging Heavy Peace eschews chronology and skips the score-settling and titillation of other rocker biographies. Still, Young shows a little leg and has some laughs…. As the book progresses, the operatics of the rock life give way to signal family events, deconstructions of his musical partnerships and musings on the natural world. It is less a chronicle than a journal of self-appraisal.” –David Carr, The New York Times
“Waging Heavy Peace finally is Neil Young on Neil Young. Inasmuch as this memoir compares to anything, it's Dylan on Dylan in Chronicles Volume 1, and at the risk of offending, one must read it as perhaps one might the Bible: Young's reality is plastic, his prose prophetic; and myth, metaphor and madness meander through his musings….It is a beautiful book, and the sturdy stock gives it a substantial heft. The prose is conversational, peppered with sentence fragments, more stream-of-consciousness than narrative. This in itself is lovely, as reading this book likely is a close as most of us will get to riding with Young in his bus, shooting the breeze, reminiscing.” –Ted St. Godard, Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)
“Terrific: modest, honest, funny and frequently moving…Waging Heavy Peace takes the form of a diary, a life-in-the-day structure that gives Mr. Young room to maneuver, as he takes us on a wander round his memory palace… In many ways, the closest antecedent to Waging Heavy Peace may be Laurence Sterne's 1760 masterpiece, Tristram Shandy…Elegance itself.” –Wesley Stace, Wall Street Journal
“An inspirational account of tragedy, triumph, and toy trains…If you love Neil Young you will love his autobiography….There is humor in his approach, and a preoccupation with the feeling of things; of sound, and with the world of soul and spirit…. [Young’s] is a hero’s story; a man put through trial after trial who is still fighting at the end with humor, courage, and rage to be the most powerful and genuine artist he can possibly be.” –Suzanne Vega, The Times (London)
“Remarkable…Young has neither burned out nor faded away.” –Bruce Ward, The Ottawa Citizen
“Revealing, even (at times) oddly beautiful, a stream-of-consciousness-meditation on where Young has been, where he thinks he's going and, perhaps most revealing, where he is right now…. It is compelling to see a figure as prominent as Young — arguably one of the five or 10 most influential figures in the history of rock 'n' roll — express himself in such an unfiltered way.” –David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times
“Full of casual asides, unpredictable tangents and open-ended questions as he looks back on his life at age 66....Young appears to be setting down his memories in real time as they occur to him...Dryly hilarious...poignant....Waging Heavy Peace shows that Young is still in full possession of that stubborn, brilliant, one-of-a-kind instrument. He doesn't always go exactly where you want him to, or stay long enough once he gets there, but did anyone really expect anything else?" –Simon Vozick-Levinson, Rolling Stone (four stars)
“Like an epic jam with Crazy Horse, it's loose and baggy and always in the moment… The strength of Waging Heavy Peace lies in its openness and honesty. When you put Young's book down, you feel you know him.” –Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
“An honest, insightful, engaging and, dare we say, fun literary rambling. It’s a yarn told by a good buddy in a dark bar over beers and tequilas with great music on the jukebox in the background.” –Bob Ruggiero, The Houston Chronicle
“Surreal….Fittingly, Peace unfolds like a blustery Crazy Horse jam…occasionally hitting on an enrapturing revelation …a contradictory tale…refreshing.” –Entertainment Weekly
"Young has consistently demonstrated the unbridled passion of an artist who understands that self-renewal is the only way to avoid burning out. For this reason, he has remained one of the most significant artists of the rock and roll era." —Eddie Vedder
“Young writes with dry eloquence in a voice that is clearly his own…His narrative voice is like his music—direct, emotional, hopeful, sometimes funny, willfully naïve, and often, quite beautiful… At its core, Waging Heavy Peace is a story about love of the enduring variety.” –Jeff Miers, Buffalo News
“Lively, rollicking, high-spirited, and reflective… Like one of his long, inventive jams, Young weaves crystalline lyrics and notes about friends… with reflections on the enduring beauty of nature, and the lasting power and influence of music.” — Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Straight from the wandering mind and pure heart of Neil Young… Fascinating.” – Portland Oregonian
“A thick, digressive epic…Waging Heavy Peace is like his career in microcosm. Nearly 500 elliptical pages long, the book is beautiful, psychedelic, rootsy, ragged, terse, boring, riveting, sad, funny, nostalgic and forward-looking…. A must-read for Neil fans.” – David Marchese, SPIN
“Outspoken, wildly discursive, and thoroughly mesmerizing.” –Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com
“[Young] makes some of his finest music in this lyrical memoir, massaging our souls by hitting just the right chords with his words.” —BookPage
“Fascinating.” –Evan Schlansky, American Songwriter
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"The past is such a big place." Neil Young.
Here it is in a nutshell. If you're a Neil Young fan, and want to read a book written in a conversational style, and want to know more about Young-straight from the well-buy this book. It's 497 pages of Young talking about just about everything he sees fit to talk about.
There's no Contents page, no Introduction, the Preface is two sentences in length, there's a Dedication Page (to his son Ben, "my warrior", and Young's family), and there's no Index. There's a black and white photo at the head of most chapters and a few others here and there (including a spaghetti recipe belonging to Young's father), but no separate section of photos. There's 68 chapters, most of them a few pages in length. The end papers have a photograph of a guitar that's been graphically altered four different ways. All in all, this is a simply produced looking book that fits Young the man/musician, and his writing style. His story is laid out simply, almost in a matter of fact style-like you hoped it would be written. Along the way there are many side roads that add depth and interest to Young's story.
Beginning at his ranch in 2011, with Young talking about his model train collection, and sharing it with his quadriplegic son, Ben, the story shifts to David Crosby and Graham Nash coming over to make some music shortly after Crosby got straight-"...still prone to taking naps between takes." Then it shifts to Young's love of old cars and anything dealing with transportation. His cars sit in a garage, where Young sits and thinks about his record company, and how he wants to improve the sound we hear on recordings. And that's just the first few pages.
From that point Young writes about a collection of Crazy Horse recordings that he's been working on ("The Early Daze"), that will tell the band's story. He also relates that he has recently quit drinking and smoking weed for his health. It's interesting to read that Young liked writing this book because it kept him (gladly) off the performing stage-he says he needs to "replenish". This isn't Young's life laid out chronologically-he goes back and forth depending on what's on his mind as he writes.
The entire book is like that. It flows along from one era, one set of circumstances, the people he comes into contact with along the way, what happened and what he thinks of it all. In some ways this is similar to Dylan's "Chronicles"-yet obviously different in many ways. It's a book you'd expect from Neil Young. For an inside look at the various stages of Young's life and career (growing up in Ontario, The Squires, The Mynah Birds, Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, Crazy Horse), the people (his father, his wives/children, Danny Whitten, Elliott Roberts for example), the music ("Thinking is the worst thing for writing a song."), his medical challenges ("They make me who I am. I am thankful for them. They scare me."), including walking ("Maybe I should call this book 'The Shoe Chronicles'."), and a lot of other major and minor happenings along the way, sometimes bordering on minutiae, the book is always interesting.
And in the end, after reading this book-it really is the story of Neil Young. This is Neil Young being Neil Young.
With all the books of late (Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, et al), by living legends, you might also want to check out "The John Lennon Letters", edited by the well known Hunter Davies (whose writing on The Beatles was largely disowned by the band). It's 386 pages of Lennon's writings from throughout his life and career,divided into 23 parts, "Part one-Early Years, 1951-58", "Part three-Beatlemania Begins, 1963", "Part five-family and Friends, 1965-66", "Part twenty-Letters to Derek Taylor, 1973-78", and so on. The book is stuffed with good reproductions of hand/type-written notes/letters/postcards/telegrams/etc.-with the oftentimes hard to read pieces printed in full next to each for legibility- along with many drawings by Lennon, and a number of photographs throughout. Also included is a very brief biography (11 pages) on Lennon's life. Davies occasionally adds short texts to help put things in correct context. One minor drawback (if you like keeping your books nice looking), is the stark white cover, printed on a fairly rough paper stock that attracts dirt and smudges like a magnet. But combined with the minimal graphics-it is cool looking. I immediately covered my copy in a clear plastic bookcover. Hardcore fans of Lennon (especially) will no doubt find some interesting pieces in this nicely presented book. Others will see this as another attempt to drain more $ from the Lennon name. To each his own.
Neil Young couldn't possibly write a "typical" autobiography, and I don't think we'd want him to. If you're looking for the facts of his life, laid out in a linear chronicle, you're going to be disappointed. What you get, though, I think, is something way better. Young rambles his way through this book, as if he were sitting down for a while every day and just saying what happened to be on his mind -- nostalgic memories, diatribes about modern recording, enthusiasm about model railroading, expressions of love and appreciation for his family and close friends, . . . . whatever has struck him that day. You're as likely to find a story about his childhood or his early days with the Squires in Chapter 60, and one about the recent loss of a close friend in Chapter 3 or 4.
That's not to say that there are no consistent themes. Here are the ones I picked out:
Family and friends -- Young has no illusions that he has been a perfect friend, husband, or father. It may be something that has come with age, but he takes special care not only to tell about his flaws, but to give his appreciation for what so many people have given to or shared with him, whether it be his wife, Pegi, his children, special musicians like Ben Keith, or the collaborators and friends like David Briggs and Larry Johnson that have meant so much to him.
Pono and the future of digital music -- This is probably Young's greatest professional passion right now. He rants about the degradation of music through MP3 compression at the same time that so much music has become available as never before. His own response is Pono, an un-degraded format that retains all the data from original master recordings. He loves the wowed reactions he gets from listeners who have only ever heard digitized, compressed recordings when he plays Pono recordings.
Lincvolt -- Young has merged his lifelong love of old, big cars (Lincolns, Cadillacs, . . . ) with his environmental concerns and passion for self-generating, electrically powered cars. You'll hear over and over about the Lincvolt project. He seems to have little regard for the newer hybrids, but a true love for the art of bringing those old, big cars of the 50s and 60s back to life with new, environmentally friendly power plants.
The Muse -- Young's music has never been predictable, and he makes little attempt to explain why he has taken this turn or that turn. He truly regards himself as guided by "the Muse" and taken wherever it wants him to go. It's made him "difficult" both for his musical partners and for his professional managers and recording companies. That's just the way it is -- the deal you make with the Muse.
What comes through the whole thing is a self-portrait of a flawed person who knows that he is flawed, tries to overcome his flaws, knows he never will be perfect and is appreciative of the people who work with him and care about him anyway. It sounds a little defeatist, but let's face it -- we're all flawed, and there's virtue in not pretending otherwise. There's that sincerity again.