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Book Review: Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History by Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff

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Although Jimmy McDonough's semi-official biography Shakey isn't in any danger of losing its position as the definitive account on the life and career of Neil Young anytime soon, there's a new arrival in the neighborhood that may be ready to challenge that classic for bragging rights.

Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff's Long May You Run: The Illustrated History may not break any new ground in terms of telling the actual Neil Young story. But it does tell it well, and is often an easier, or at least more compact read than the opus that is Shakey.

Where McDonough's nearly 800 page book goes into painstaking detail about virtually every aspect of Neil Young's life from his childhood in Canada right up to about the time of that book's 2003 publish date, Long May You Run instead compresses most of these same points into a quicker, more easily digested 200 or so pages. Yet, even with the significant reduction in length, little is missed here.

But the thing which really sets this book apart from Shakey — or any other Neil Young book for that matter — are the pictures. In boasting that it is the first fully illustrated Neil Young biography, Long May You Run lives up to that claim, and then some.

Beautiful, full-color photographs from every phase of Neil Young's five-decade career — many of them never before seen — leap off of every single page. In between the actual story, there are also hundreds of photos of ticket stubs, concert posters, rare foreign singles and albums, and other memorabilia. This package is just beautifully put together, and the sort of collectible in itself that any fan is sure to recognize as an instant keeper.

Neil Young's story has of course been told many times before, probably most successfully in the aforementioned Shakey. But in both condensing that story, and telling it in simpler, easier to read language here, the authors bring a fresh perspective to it that makes this book seem like reading it all for the first time.

All of the major points are covered too — from Buffalo Springfield to Crosby Stills Nash & Young to Crazy Horse and the Stray Gators, and from the deaths of Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry through the "ditch trilogy," the so-called "lost eighties," the battles with David Geffen, his comeback as the "godfather of grunge" in the nineties, and more.

As a bonus, there are also numerous sidebars sandwiched in-between the chapters that focus on Neil Young's numerous unreleased albums, his often contentious relationship with the other members of CSN&Y, his collaborators, and even the various women in his life. A number of Young's musical peers also chime in with their own thoughts (including a lengthy letter of praise from Aerosmith's Joe Perry).

One of these sidebars even deals with Neil's sometimes strange relationship with Shakey author McDonough, who went from being his official biographer to suing the artist just to get the book out. Seems Neil Young can sometimes be a rather difficult guy to deal with.

Long May You Run also brings the Neil Young story up to the present day — as much as that is even possible with a mad scientist as wildly prolific as Young. An extensive (and again, beautifully illustrated) discography in the back section of the book brings things right up to last year's Dreamin' Man Live CD, and of course the massive Archives set.

With Long May You Run, Daniel Durchholz and Gary Graff have managed to pull off the rather impressive trick of adding new dimensions to the already well documented public account of Neil Young's volatile, mercurial, and often misunderstood musical genius.

Oh yeah, and the pictures are pretty awesome too.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    Great review Glen-excellent-powerful-well thought out… and nifty too

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx for the “nifty” comment Jet.

    -Glen

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    That’s why I’m here

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com// Jet Gardner

    In all seriousness though Glen, I just got this book as a review copy from my own sources and it’s an absolute joy. You nailed your review here.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Glad you were able to get a copy — that whole business was a bit of a mess there for a minute. I just hope everybody else who is supposed to get this, does. Anyway, appreciate the kind words.

    -Glen

  • http://neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org/ thrasher

    Glen,

    Yeah, that sidebar on Shakey author McDonough lawsuit was interesting in that it was included in an un-official book.

    Guess that’s why they call him Shakey maybe!?

    Thrasher

  • martin lav

    Good review Glen, but why so much coverage of Jimmy? I read his book too, but mentioning his so many times takes away from the book you are reviewing doesn’t it?
    Then again, reviewing Neil’s work by constantly mentioning his tumultuous relationships with CSN is in effect the same thing.

    Cheerz