Let’s not turn a legend’s option into a culture war.

Until a few days ago I had no idea that there were people who didn’t like Neil Young.

And, in my closer circles, the emotion was generally a lot stronger than like. I was raised on Neil and his intense passion, to me, embodies everything music should be.

That voice– it’s unequaled in my mind, at once the most fragile and powerful thing you’ve ever heard. That guitar style – raging open chords with Crazy Horse, beautifully original acoustically. The songs– all of them, from iconic, legendary classics with CSNY to oddly necessary odes to a consciousness– defined by nature, wildness, goodness and love.

In late January 2022, Neil discovered a final straw and left a single streaming service, Spotify, because – in his estimation– the platform wasn’t doing enough to police the information on it’s channels during a pandemic. Neil cited the Joe Rogan podcast specifically when he instructed Spotify to remove all of his music.

My perspective might be valuable because…
…my life is tied up in Spotify – I log a lot of hours in a lot of genres and share a lot.
…to me, no living artist is more original, authentic or important than Neil Young.
…until a few days ago, I had no idea who Joe Rogan was.

I knew his name and that he had a podcast but, beyond that he was an unknown quantity. The only opinion I could form in the hours after the flare up was by reading the wave of comments from his fans publicly deriding Neil Young without shame, cause, understanding… or reason.

I took the initiative to listen to a few of his podcasts and have to assume I’m not the target. The program is plainly aimed at a specific demographic– mostly males who feel disenfranchised by a movement they might define as wokeness.

The format was uninteresting to me and Rogan less than special as an interviewer. I don’t know what I’m missing… maybe it’s my age but the podcast is not for me.

An army of voices falsely claiming Young was attempting to censor Rogan is harmful.

No one is more woke than Neil. So it was that, when he requested that Spotify remove his music, he was dissociating his art from other content he opposed. Nothing more. Certainly nothing for a Rogan fan to become belligerent about or really even concerned with.

Neil Young was not attempting to censor the talk show podcast.

It doesn’t matter what content Neil disagreed with. It doesn’t matter if Rogan is anti-vax or not.

What matters is, Neil Young took a stand he thought was right. That’s his right.

. . .

Now, Young fans like me need to make a decision. Neil forced that hand.

There are 6 million plus monthly listeners to Neil Young on Spotify so, odds are I am not alone. In the end, Spotify is a publicly held company to which I hold little allegiance but I have a family account– everyone uses the service to listen to their customized soundtracks of their lives. I also have hundreds of playlists in almost every genre, some with many followers. In the days that followed Neil’s decision to have his music removed I saw fans instantly delete their accounts in solidarity but I cannot do that.

In the end, to me, this is a story about how disappointed I am in myself for how I have come to depend on a computer application. I respect Rogan’s right to interview whomever he wants– and to allow them to say whatever they want– I think Neil does as well, and I respect Neil’s right to disassociate his art from other information or misinformation.

My personal perspective also includes the belief that an army of voices claiming Young was attempting to censor Rogan is really harmful. Not only is it factually incorrect, it shuts down the chance for any dialog.

Now, no matter what anyone thinks about Rogan’s podcast, it’s pretty easy to form an opinion of his fans who have called Young washed-up, irrelevant, crazy, communist… Neil Young, a living fucking legend!

. . .

If you’re of the opinion that Neil Young was advocating censorship, you’re just wrong.

If you accept that Young removed his music from association with Rogan’s content and you still have an issue, that’s your right but you can’t vilify Neil in the process without turning a disagreement about where content is hosted into cause for a culture war.

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