Neil Young's song "Rockin' In The Free World" from the album Freedom is one of his most popular, prophetic and important songs.
So on this July 4th weekend, it seems like a good day to reflect on the meaning of freedom, independence and what Neil Young is trying to tell us all.
The song is prominent in director Michael Moore's film 'Fahrenheit 9/11' where "Rockin' in the Free World" runs over the closing credits. A re-release of the song and a new music video directed by Moore is scheduled for the Summer of 2004.
The song has become an iconic anthem and it's status continues to rise as more and more artists cover the song. Young's lyrics are considered to be an indictment of the politics of the 1980's. The newspaper USA Today called the song:
- "a savage attack on the policies of Ronald Reagan and the
first President Bush ... (and) anything but a celebration of democracy."
On the contrary, a strong case can be made that the song is NOT "anything but a celebration of democracy." In fact, an argument can be made that the song is very pro-democracy and is a protest song that has advanced the argument about inequities in society. The song is clearly the work of someone who could be called a courageous patriot.
The song's lyrics contain the lines:
- We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
The lyrics are a direct reference to President George Bush's (#41) campaign pledge to create a compassionate citizenry volunteering to help cope with society's ills. The "thousand points of light" symbolize the American citizen's spirit and a shining example of giving selflessly to care for one another's neighbor and brother. Along with "a kinder, gentler hand", Bush believed that each American could contribute to helping make the United States a better place live and work.
The economic realities of the 1980's with increasing social problems — such as homelessness and drug abuse — made Young mock the campaign promises of President Bush as hollow rhetoric. The drug problems ("she's gonna take a hit") refer to the crack epidemic which swept large American cities during the 1980's.