January 31st, 2020 – Freedom Rock

In 1989 there was plenty of political unrest and social upheaval around the planet to keep the 24 hour news cycle humming as background noise on televisions across America, mine included. Most people barely paid attention.

But it has been a time honored tradition for musicians to write songs highlighting political hot button issues or calling out hypocritical, tyrannical or complacent governments and leaders. Some folks got their news and social perspectives from woke musicians who took full advantage of this country’s freedom of speech to advance the conversation.

Neil Young – “Rockin’ in the Free World”

I never felt that Neil Young was a particularly strong singer. He has a unique sound to be sure but it’s his songwriting and energy when he delivers this song that captivates me. Truth be told, when I was playing in a band at around the time this was released I really enjoyed singing this tune onstage.

Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989 and was from Neil Young’s 17th studio album “Freedom“. The story behind the song is that Young and his band Crazy Horse were planning a tour that included the Soviet Union. When that gig fell through it was his drummer who quipped “we’ll have to keep rockin’ in the free world” – Young seized upon that phrase and applied it to all of the geopolitical concerns of the day.

The song made it to number 2 on Billboard, is considered to be one of Neil Young’s best songs and ranks 216 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. I don’t know if it was Neil but the Berlin Wall opened the same month this song was released. Coincidence?

Fast forward to January 2020, Canadian born Neil Young is granted United States citizenship after living in the U.S. for more than 50 years – Happy Freedom Neil.

Lew Hastings

There’s colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin’ their feet
People sleepin’ in their shoes
But there’s a warnin’ sign on the road ahead
There’s alot of people sayin’ we’d be better off dead
Don’t feel like Satan, but I am to them
So I try to forget it, any way I can

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away, and she’s gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she’s done to it
There’s one more kid that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive

Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world

Writer: Neil Young Reprise Records

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