Spirit of the 1960s and 70s kept alive in new book about Neil Young

A new book on the musical travels of Neil Young, one of the most significant recording and performing artists of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, argues that the singer-songwriter is one of only a few music industry figures to still engage in social activism.

Professor Martin Halliwell from the Centre for American Studies has just published Neil Young: American Traveller, the first book to systematically focus on the importance of place and travel in the songwriter’s music, films, memoirs, and social activism.

The book claims that travel is more important to Neil Young than to most other musicians. As a boy growing up in Canada in the 1950s Young showed an early fascination with cars and trains, and he has since journeyed through the Americas. Young’s music also travels, seeing him shift from folk, rock and country to electronica, grunge and noise, and back again, over 50 years since he emerged on the music scene in the mid-1960s.

This activist spirit stems from what The Guardian has called the “greatest protest song ever”. Young wrote the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song “Ohio” in May 1970 in response to the shootings of four Kent State University students by the US National Guard during a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War.

His activism has more recently led him to criticize US foreign policy during the Iraq War, off-shore fracking, and the use of GMOs by multinational corporations.

Neil Young: American Traveller is published by Reaktion Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. Professor Martin Halliwell will be speaking about the book at the following events in November:

  • University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Toronto (12 noon on Monday 16 November)
  • Belmont University, Nashville (10 am on Friday 20 November)