Neil Young Alan Lewis - Essay

Alan Lewis

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Mona Lisa has nothing on Neil Young. Enigmatic is probably too precise a word for a man whose songs defy any attempt to pin him down.

He is all things to all men….

He is also one of Rock's greatest songwriters, wrapping up small nuggets of truth and pain and beauty in melodies which have the haunting simplicity of songs half-remembered from childhood and lyrics which, like the best songs of Dylan and Lennon, can be interpreted on many different levels.

It is the elusiveness, the mysteriousness, of many of Young's songs which makes them so precious. Because they are not explicit, each listener can interpret them in a way which is meaningful to him or her. Listening to the songs on ["Harvest"], I find it impossible to set down on paper what many of them are really about. Yet meaning is there, to be divined instinctively.

A few of the songs, superficially at least, are more explicit than others….

The other songs are harder to pin down. They tell of joy, sorrow, love, old age, half-described incidents and meetings—all expressed in oblique, fragmented lyrics which create an indefinable atmosphere of regret and nostalgia for a simpler, happier way of life which probably never existed.

Alan Lewis, "Young at Heart," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), February 19, 1972, p. 23.