Just a few weeks ago I bought some Bruce Cockburn vinyl at a book sale.
I hadn’t heard much about this guy’s music since college, but it turns out this guy is a terrific guitarist, songwriter, and has a rich baritone with just a pinch of grit, which conveys alternately pure poetry and more than a spoonful of didactic self-satisfaction.
For good measure, I read “Rumors of Glory: A Memoir,” the Canadian singer-songwriter’s autobiography. Whoa man! Throughout much of the book, the author presents himself as an insufferable, self-absorbed, and oblivious fool. Not only his strident brand of politics, but also Cockburn’s slippery views that God’s plan for all his creation does not apply to the author when inconvenient to gratify his immediate emotional and carnal desires.
Does that make his music less enjoyable? Not at all. In fact, I’ve found that many of his albums are as close to perfect as any pop masterpiece from Van Morrison, Bob Dylan or, for that matter, fellow Canadian Cockburn Joni Mitchell. and Neil Young.
It appears that Young asked Spotify to remove its extensive catalog to protest podcaster Joe Rogan’s topic. Contrary to common accounts, however, Young did not issue an ultimatum to Spotify. He told the streaming service to remove his music as long as it continued to grant Rogan an unfettered platform. It’s a form of protest, but not the call for censorship that some on the right would suggest. As others have noted, Rogan and Young still share other platforms, so we’ll see how that goes.
Young’s action hurts his own bottom line, but it’s none of my business in the end. This isn’t the first time Shakey (Young’s nickname) has had me scratching my head in amazement. Several years ago, he teamed up with the children of Willie Nelson to speak out against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), for which I took him to task in the print media.
Coincidentally, the recent kerfuffle picked up steam the very day I purchased a replacement vinyl copy of Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark.”
I don’t need Spotify as long as I have a turntable and a well-stocked library of classic tunes. As for Rogan, I’ve never listened to it and I suspect it doesn’t really matter to me. But I need a lot of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell from time to time.
But all of this nonsense laid bare the simple fact that most of us have lost our respective minds about politics, which passes for science, culture wars and the coronapocalypse. From what I’ve read on social media, many on the right want to cancel Neil and Joni for taking a stand (again, neither musician gave Spotify an ultimatum, and Rogan isn’t even not remotely a centre-right standard bearer). I would argue that the cancellation of two of Canada’s top music exports is a stupid and disproportionate move, and it makes the right look like a pathetic bundle of record-burning rubies.
What about comments like, “You can have it, we won’t” on my social media? Is the “we” referred to simply tribalism or some other type of “us” versus “them” dynamic? Or consider the mundane comments on Young’s unique vocals and parodies of his most popular lyrics. Clever! Or even an essay in which an ignorant but prominent author attributes America’s “nameless horse” to Young? In my world, such oversight is unforgivable and punishable by having to listen to Debbie Boone on repeat for an entire week.
I know next to nothing about Rogan. However, I know and love music. In the spirit of e pluribus unum, why would one submit to a false choice between the two? I wish them both all the blessings of freedom.
Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a Morning Sun columnist.