Waging Heavy Peace
For the first time Neil Young offers a view of his personal life and musical creativity in his memoires Waging Heavy Peace. Where he has been, where he thinks he's going and where he is right now. In 500 pages he tells of his childhood in Ontario; his first brush with mortality when he contracted polio at the age of five; traveling the Canadian prairies in Mort, his 1948 Buick hearse; leaving Canada to pursue his music for Los Angeles; the brief life of Buffalo Springfield; writing “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “Down by the River” in one day while sick with the flu; joining Crosby, Stills & Nash, recording the landmark CSNY album, Déjà vu and writing the song “Ohio”.
He shares with us life at his secluded ranch in the redwoods of Northern California and the pot-filled jam sessions there; falling in love with his wife, Pegi and the birth of his three children; and finally, finding the contemplative paradise of Hawaii. David Carr in the New York Times said “This book is less a chronicle than a journal of self-appraisal.” I agree.
Neil is lucky to be alive. His health issues are a big reason he’s decided to stop taking drugs and drinking alcohol. Nine months straight as of the writing of this book, but he points out that he hasn’t been able to write a single song since. His book however, is about more than his music. His passion right now is much bigger than that.
In the opening pages he writes about his model trains, his extensive collection of vintage cars, his hope that the LincVolt will show that electric cars are the future and probably most important his entrepreneurial effort to save the music industry with an audio system called PureTone now named Pono.
He laments the decline of music during the digital age. It’s not pirating that's the problem but that the MP3 degrades the quality of the music, giving us only 5% of the original master. He thinks that because we're hearing so little of the original sound, we don’t feel the music and therefore we’re not connecting to it.
The title of the book, Waging Heavy Peace, comes from his struggle selling the idea to Apple and the market. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal conference earlier this year, Neil complained that the MP3 can’t “transfer the depth of the art.” Enter Pono. The device/music service will hit the market soon and promises to let you hear recordings in super high fidelity, as if you owned the original master tapes.
Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, raved about the sound of Pono, telling Rolling Stone: “It’s not like some vague thing that you need dogs’ ears to hear. It’s a drastic difference.”
Neil Young has neither burned out nor faded away. If he's right, the next chapter in his life won’t be as much about his music but how he saves it all.
Neil explains Pono on The David Letterman Show