Sunday, May 10, 2015

Comparing Neil Young to Contemporary Artists

While watching Showtime's Neil Young "Band of Gold" documentary/concert, I began to consider how true artists, be they musicians, writers, or visual artists, develop their voices in much the same way. For Neil Young, the signature style combining original lyrics with very similar melodies and his so familiar vocals, are very comparable to contemporary artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns, Amselm Kiefer, or the original original, Marcel Duchamp. Each of the latter developed their repertoire over many years of experimentation, study, and listening to their own internal, informed knowing. It doesn't come easily, certainly, but some find their way early in life and continue to develop. Others study and learn and practice for years, and see their own style when they are mature and look back over years of production. I suspect Neil Young's life was charmed in so far as he found early fame. What I especially respect in his case is that despite many forays into experiences that could have destroyed him, he kept his "eye on the sparrow" and kept his lyrics honest and simple. His heart is displayed in his music for all the world to hear, and one must be fearless to do that. Just singing or playing music written by someone else isn't the same (excepting his version of Four Strong Winds), just as copy-work by artists isn't the same as the work produced from the subconscious and informed by knowledge. Granted, Neil Young isn't John Cage, but he is an artist for the people, regardless. Personally, I particularly enjoy seeing how all the colors, notes, words, and lines come together into a cohesive and readily recognizable body of work. I am beginning to see some of that in my own work, though I certainly do not expect to ever be comparable to the greats!
Left to right: Robert Rauschenberg, Monogram; Neil Young.
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