Letter To Neil Young, by Jeff Grant
Reprinted from prisonist.org
Dear Neil Young,
I am writing to you let you know how you’ve inspired my transformation story and prison ministry.
Since I am publishing this letter on our blogsite, and I have no other way of contacting you that I can reasonably think of, I think it’s fair to let our readers know that we’ve never met, I do not know you, and the closest I have ever been to you is the eighth row of a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in the Nassau Coliseum in 2002.
And I have no real understanding of your life other than articles and biographies. I feel particularly connected to Jimmy McDonough’s biography Shakey. It’s release in 2003 comforted me in the early days of my recovery – just after my bottom from prescription narcotics and just before my arrest.
Most early mornings at about 3:30 am, I sit at my computer listening to one of your albums or another (this morning After the Gold Rush) and channel your essence & work ethic (or at least what I project it to be). I hear the song in my head – the muse – and I try to follow her where ever she leads.
Most days, she leads to something useful or serviceable. On rare occasion, something much more.
I’d been trying to describe this song-in-my-head phenomenon for decades, when in one brief moment, you gave voice to what I was unable. On Crazy Horse’s, Year of the Horse, just before, “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” someone from the audience yelled out, “they all sound the same.” And your reply was for the ages: “it’s all one song!”
It’s all one song. Of course.
That’s why I know a Neil Young song when I hear it. Because you write the songs that you hear in your head and are not afraid for them to be good songs or bad songs, famous songs or just plain old Neil Young songs. They are all part of the one big song playing in your head and that have been playing in your head for the past fifty years or so.
That’s how I feel every morning. That there is this song in my head and it needs to be written – it needs to be sung. A song that was repressed for so many years by trauma, drugs, poor judgment, shame, guilt and remorse. A song that I now express in my writing, music, work and life. Some days it’s just a plain old song that I sing. Some days something really special happens and reminds me how I’ve been blessed.
Thank you Neil. Long may you run.
PS one of my favorites (among many):
“Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.”
-Old Man, Neil Young
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div is the Minister/Director of the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is engaging in new forms of prison ministries providing religious and spiritual support to people affected by inner city, white-collar and nonviolent incarceration issues and their loved ones – before, during and upon reentry from prison. They are “the first ministries in the United States created to support people accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes and their families.” Website: prisonist.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (203) 769-1096.