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Why Neil Young’s Corporate Rant Is All Wrong

The veteran rocker and the YouTube sensation have little in common beyond some scraggly hairs (hers are plastic). The unexpected video star could still tell Young a little something about content marketing in 2016

Young recently appeared on WTF with Marc Maron, one of comedy’s biggest podcasts. The liberal rocker opined about the usual subjects for left-of-center souls, including … climate change.

That meant he snuck in a corporate rant or two.

This time, Young bemoaned the current state of the music industry. It’s simply not conducive to the kind of protest music he trafficked in back in the proverbial day.

RELATED: ‘Begin Again’ Songwriter Pines for Protest Songs

Heck, even if Young and his on-again, off-again palls in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young wanted to shake things up with a new protest anthem no one would hear it.

Or so Young claims.

“There’s just nowhere to play it … You might not know what happened, because it would never be on the radio, people wouldn’t be talking about it, because radio and TV and all the media and everything is controlled by a certain amount of people and corporations. Before it used to be many, many people doing this, but the Telecommunications Act in 1996 made it possible for corporations to own all the media, so it’s six companies.”

Young and co. recorded “Ohio” back in 1970, one of the preeminent protest songs in rock history.

Ohio- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

The band recorded the track in a rush following the shootings at Kent State which killed four college students.

They gave it to Atlantic records boss Ahmet Ertegun, who rushed the single into production and had it on the streets within a week or so, wrapped in a sleeve that pointedly reprinted the section of the Bill of Rights that guarantees free assembly.

The rest is music lore. So what does this have to do with Chewbacca Mom?



Young’s point about the state of music radio today is partially accurate. Corporate radio can be stale, to those who lack mainstream tastes.

But so what?

Chewbacca Mom doesn’t have a record label, or even an agent (well, she might now). Her silly, selfless video still racked up millions of hits in a matter of days.

She became the essence of Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” fame theorem, and she’s making it last.

Today, music doesn’t start and stop at your local radio station. It’s streamed on Pandora, shared on Facebook, moved around on Twitter and collected on YouTube. Anyone, at any time, can grab the zeitgeist with the right message or meme.

Surely, a veteran singer like Young could do the same.

You could chalk the singer’s corporate rant up to partisan posturing. Attacking corporations still packs a hipster punch.

Or, at 70, Young may simply be unaware of the viral nature of our media age.

Here’s a message for Young. If you’ve got a protest song in your heart, let it out. One way or another, we’ll hear it. Especially if it’s anything as poignant as “Ohio.”

And, if we somehow miss it, maybe a duet with Chewbacca Mom will seal the deal.

Photo credit: kyonokyonokyono via / CC BY


  1. Congrats, Neil, you’re officially an old fart. You lament lack of “access”, but only in the context of the moldy old paradigms of radio and label. The music business has *never* been so open as it is now, for anyone willing to put in an effort.

    Neil screams “look at me!” as the world shrugs.

  2. “Waaaah, nobody’s listening to my lame liberal propaganda anymore!” As much as I loathe 21st century pop music, if it manages to put the final nail in the coffin of ’60s-style protest rock, then it’s worth it.

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