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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why Neil Young Is Wrong

On Sunday, May 14, the San Francisco Chronicle published my open letter to Neil Young, “Hey, Neil Young, We Young Singers Are Hog-tied, Too.” I tried to explain how the corporatized music industry has censored protest music in the past several years. The letter went viral on the Internet, and I was flooded with enthusiastic responses from all kinds of people. Even Neil and his team posted it front and center on his blog for the entire week.

What prompted my letter and the outpouring was Young’s comment about why he felt compelled to write his new anti-Bush album, Living with War. “I was waiting for someone to come along, some young singer eighteen-to-twenty-two years old, to write these songs and stand up,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I waited a long time. Then I decided that maybe the generation that has to do this is still the ’60s generation. We’re still here.”

As the first protest singer to rise from the streets of anti-war and WTO protests and get a major worldwide distribution deal, I felt compelled to explain that today’s Dylans, Ochses, and Neil Youngs are here, but they’re being silenced by an industry that has for years derived its profits from kiddy porn and dreamy boys.

Just two days after my article came out, MTV, which has refused to play anti-war videos even by the biggest stars, published an article addressing the need for political consciousness in mainstream music. In a flourish of Bush-like hubris, one of the country’s chief purveyors of military recruitment ads to youth posted the article, “Where Is the Voice of Protest in Today’s Music?” The webpage boasted an Army video game in the bottom right corner. (MTV, by the way, refuses to air anti-war ads produced by organizations like Not In Our Name and Win Without War.)

Where’s the voice of protest? It’s in MTV’s trash can.

Where are today’s protest singers? They’re on the “don’t add” list at corporate radio stations, where they’ve increasingly been placed since FCC deregulation paved the way for the monopolization of the industry.

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Why Neil Young Is Wrong

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