Back when Neil Young was rockin’ in the free world, back when a thunderous power chord struck a blow against the empire, “The Sixties” were shaking the cultural firmament well into the 1970s.
Right on, and all that, even as the tremors merely virtue-signaled longstanding liberal precepts: Civil rights. Gay rights. Native rights. Workers’ rights. Free speech. Women’s liberation. Grassroots collectivism. Environmental activism. World peace.
I was there, in Berkeley and San Francisco and Madison, and joined the cause through the soundtracks of protest and revelatory “new journalism” from Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, Chicago Reader and Mother Jones.
The utopia envisioned in so many acid-inspired epiphanies was an apparition, but flower power did redirect the mainstream, through legislative protections and, more foundationally, a center-right American middle class that ultimately co-existed with change while embracing basic social tenets: family, jobs, good schools, safe neighborhoods.
Whichever way the Neil Young-Joe Rogan episode plays out, rock & roll’s rebellious legacy is compromised. In an attempt to cancel Spotify’s podcaster, Young, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and assorted comrades romanticize a Left that long ago traded its tolerant, artist-friendly DNA for an authoritarian aftershock the counterculture once challenged: The Man, the Establishment, Big Brother, Big Tech, Big Media, Big Pharma – Big Government; “experts” and elitists who are smarter than the rest of us and arrogant enough to mandate our lives.
Agendas beyond our comprehension profit from divisiveness and convenient crises. Civil rights are now incessant charges of “racism” and reparation demands targeting generations far removed. Gay rights uploaded gender fluidity into pre-pubescent minds. Environmentalists scream holocaustic climate change – winter mocked “global warming” – mere mortals will never “solve” while exacting a massive transfer of wealth. Women’s lib sanctified only certain women and ignores the threat to women’s sports by trans athletes. Free speech on campus acquiesced to group-think and mob rule. Rolling Stone forsook its mission, pandered to the media-industrial complex and published fake stories. Unions strayed from their rank-and-file.
Under relentless partisan assault, information filtered through Big Media is contorted and suppressed. Investigative journalism withers. Propaganda taints “science” and duplicity shapes our perception of Covid-19, from the origin of the virus to the call for lockdowns, masking and social distancing; to the efficacy of the “vaccines” and deflections on natural immunity, cheap therapeutics and pertinent research.
Inflated death counts. 24/7 network fear porn. Two weeks to flatten the curve. Pfizer seeking a 75-year embargo on its clinical trial data. The FDA removing Moderna’s vax approval documents from its website. Misinformation? We’re soaked.
So, two highly credentialed doctors examine the narrative. Joe Rogan’s crime lay in interviewing them. But he’s the one trafficking in “dangerous” misinformation. The comrades bully, sans evidence or debate, and cancel culture destroys; as of this writing Spotify has pulled 70 Rogan podcasts, some apparently for racial slurs that recently surfaced, and Neil Young further urges company employees to quit their jobs.
What!? The millionaire is going to buy their groceries and pay their mortgage?
Joni Mitchell receded from view years ago. Young and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder made some rousing intergenerational music together but offstage comrade Young appears ever strident and cranky. Springsteen? Whatever happened to our compassionate boardwalk poet? Paging The Boss.
Maybe their music wasn’t so prescient, after all. Maybe they were simply entertainers.
At a time when Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Kid Rock courageously question public healthcare policy, the comrades have become parodies of themselves. With the stage lights dimmed, their only applause comes from an establishment that never cared about them in the first place.
Marty Racine was a music critic for the Houston Chronicle and has written for Billboard magazine, among other publications. He is a former editor of The Bulletin and hosts Cross City Blues on KRWG-FM.