The fear factor - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Well, I suppose I could blame Spotify or the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine hesitancy or former Fear Factor host Joe Rogan or maybe even Neil Young himself, but, regardless of who’s to blame, I’m no longer able to listen to the music of one of Canada’s greatest musicians.
Late last month, Young issued somewhat of an ultimatum to Spotify, the world’s largest streaming service for music and podcasts, saying that, essentially, it was him or Joe Rogan. The Joe Rogan Experience is the most popular podcast in the world and it’s been reported that Spotify bought its exclusive rights for more than $100 million. It’s no surprise that Spotify would choose its cash cow over Young, but that wasn’t the point.
Young, an advocate for vaccination, put the screws to Spotify for allowing Rogan to spread misinformation about everything from climate change to vaccination on one of the world’s biggest platforms. It’s no different than the recent crackdown on misinformation on social media and perhaps other artists will follow Young’s lead and make a difference.
For me, Young has been a formative musical presence in my life. There was a period of about two years in which I only listened to Young. So, while most people today will shrug at Spotify’s decision, I, a Spotify subscriber, am bummed by Young being whisked away.
Just as my pal Denny eulogized his beloved Meat Loaf last week, allow me to tell my story of a life lived with the music of Neil Young.
A friend introduced me to Young’s music after I began listening to Bob Dylan. If you like Bob Dylan, he said, you’ll love Neil Young. This friend was not so much of a Bob Dylan guy, but he appreciated Neil Young.
I fell in love immediately. I started with some of Young’s most popular albums, like Harvest, Tonight’s the Night and After the Gold Rush, branched out to his lesser-known works with albums like Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and Comes a Time and then worked to understand his most complicated releases like Re·ac·tor and Trans, albums in which he embraced some really weird ideas and trends. For a while, if Young made it, I’d listen to it.
Eventually I made my way to the albums he made with Pearl Jam, learning about how he became grandfather to the grunge movement.
Then, just as I was coming of age to attend concerts on my own, he released Greendale. A rock opera of sorts, the album’s 10 songs told a story and the live performances featured a cast of theatre actors on stage while Young and his band Crazy Horse played the songs.
As a young music fan who finally got to see his idol perform, it was magical. In retrospect, however, the whole thing wasn’t that great. The songs were alright, the theatre aspect was weird and I don’t think it really came together for people as Young had hoped it would.
I would see him again with Crosby, Stills and Nash, but it wasn’t until Jess and I saw him at Massey Hall that it all came together. It was truly one of the magical moments of my life, seeing Young in a place with so much history, both for him and for Toronto.
I even read biographies on the man and I learned that he spent some time in Pickering. He lived on Brock Road, four minutes from where I lived. He became a teenager there, living across the street from what is now the Pickering Golf Club (where I grew up playing) and just steps from the cemetery in which my grandparents are buried.
What Young has done may not matter to the people who listen to Rogan, but it matters to him and he’s doing the right thing.