Today, I’m going to write about Neil Young. Okay, so like most of my stories it will probably be more about me than Neil Young, but let’s at least start with him. If you are familiar with music I’m sure you have heard of him. I first heard of him when he did an album in 1995 with my favorite band in the world, Pearl Jam. He had this pretty cool voice and he could really play guitar and harmonica, and anything done with Pearl Jam automatically made you cool in my eyes, especially back then.
I didn’t know until later in life that Neil Young was in a bunch of other bands or that he had been playing music for a million years before that 1995 album.
Pearl Jam was a band that my brother and I really liked growing up. Each time a new CD was to come out my Dad would buy it while we were at school and it would be on our beds when we got home. We would listen to it, pick our favorite songs, review the artwork on the CD cover or inside booklet. Probably very similar to when KISS came out with an album. KISS was a little before my time.
As you grow up you never think anything your parents do is cool, but finally after you mature a little and you take an interest in them, lots of times you find out maybe why you like certain things. Pearl Jam led me to listen to more and more Neil Young stuff, to which I had access to a ton of his work since my parents loved that style of music. My parents always played music on the weekends, usually when they were both cleaning the house. I got a ton of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Van Morrison, America, Fleetwood Mac, and Eric Clapton to name a few.
About a month or so ago my Mom asked me if I would like to go to a Neil Young concert at a Theater in Boston. I could not say Yes fast enough. She had seen Neil Young before so she gave me her ticket. So the night came and I went with my Dad and brother.
It was a beautiful night, so we blasted a Neil Young cd, rolled the windows down and took off for the show. They whole ride my Dad was talking about this guitar player, and another drummer, and seeing The Allman Brothers back in 1970 something. He was going on and on about his musical interest. Again, getting a chance to see your Dad as a guy and not as a Dad is always enjoyable for me. Hearing him talk about his life helps me connect some of the dots in my own.
This night, Neil Young is playing completely by himself. He played 3 different acoustic guitars, an electric guitar, an organ, harmonica, and 2 different pianos. He told stories about each instrument, the origins of it, why it was important to him. Then he would go into a song, and even if it was a song I wasn’t familiar with the sound was incredible. I could not get the smile off my face. He would go into a slow song and I would almost, I repeat, almost tear up. At one point after a song was over my Dad stood up and gave Neil Young a standing ovation. It was so cool to experience something like that with him. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking while the songs were playing, but I thinking about my Mom and Dad. It was sort of an out of body experience. I was at the concert, but at certain points I was back in my old family home, picturing my Dad with a full mustache yelling the words to a song while my brother and I were outside playing baseball or fighting with G.I Joe’s.
It was great to connect with my Dad in that way. Neil Young was really great, but it was the company I was with that made it WAY WAY better. Music has that way of connecting people. You hear something and it brings you back to a certain time in your life. That type of music always reminded me of them, but now I have a new experience to draw from. As the concert was winding down I remember thinking I wanted to hear more songs, I wanted to bottle up this night and make it last.
The ride home from the concert was great. Talking about the songs and just catching up on life. As we got closer to the house my Dad said “well, I can cross that off my bucket list, I saw a concert with my son.” I got in my car to drive home, put on a Neil Young station on my radio and cried a few tears of joy. The songs aren’t just a memory from 30 years ago. They are now from the night a boy and his Dad got to share.
Lots of times men have a hard time expressing how they feel about each other. I can cry in front of my Mom, my wife, especially my two daughters. When we go to leave my parents’ house after a Sunday dinner, I hug my Mom, tell her I love her and as I walk out I might say to my Dad “thanks for dinner” but there is hardly ever a handshake or hug or something. Same with my brother, I hug his wife goodbye, call my brother fat or make fun of the size of his head and I walk out the door.
So, on a random night in July, I got to tell my Dad I loved him without ever saying the words. He knew when we got home just how special that night was for me and I knew the exact same. We didn’t need mushy words and a hug, we just needed Neil Young to pick up a guitar and start singing.