I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the music of Neil Young has dotted many times in my life. When I was really little I used to hate his voice, not understanding how meaningful and personal that sound was for my parents.
His music will always be so tied to the time it was made in whether it be about heroin in the 1970s or his current campaign against GMOs and monocropping. This song is in response to his grief over the loss of more than one close musician friend to the “needle”. Neil seems to always have been able to translate intense personal tragedy into something beautiful, without compromising the inherent pain of the situation.
This from Neil in a recording of “Live at Massey Hall 1971”:
“Ever since I left Canada, about five years ago or so… and moved down south… found out a lot of things that I didn’t know when I left. Some of ’em are good, and some of ’em are bad. Got to see a lot of great musicians before they happened… before they became famous… y’know, when they were just gigging. Five and six sets a night… things like that. And I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But… strangely enough, the real good ones… that you never got to see was… ’cause of, ahhm, heroin. An’ that started happening over an’ over. Then it happened to someone that everyone knew about. So I just wrote a little song.”
“Every junkie’s like a setting sun”