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#ThrowbackThursday: “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young

Neil Young “Rockin’ In The Free World” Reprise Records

by Sean Smith

Legendary singer/songwriter Neil Young is set to release a new album this week. The Canadian born music icon’s new work Peace Trail will be his 37th full length studio release. The album is comprised of 10 new tracks and was reportedly recorded in less than a week’s time.

Neil Young has never been one to shy away from blending his activism with his music over his decades long career in the music industry. So with all the issues that we see going on in the world today, of course Neal Young would have some things to say about it all. The first single to be released from Peace Trail was a track called “Indian Givers” released back in September. The song was one way that Young has contributed to protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. A music video for the song includes real life footage from the protests taking place on the ground in Standing Rock, which young has taken part in himself.

The entire Peace Trail album is made up of songs of that same social commentary ilk. It’s classic Neil Young. Just as it is sonically speaking, with the album heavily leaning on the trademark blend of Young’s use of both acoustic and electric guitar play. Speaking of classic Neil Young. We thought this week would be the perfect time to take a few moments to remember one of the many classic songs from his robust music discography.

Neil Young released his 18th studio album Freedom in October 1989. The album opens with a live acoustic version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and the album closes with an electric version of the same track. It was written by Young with the help of Frank Sampedro of Young’s backing band Crazy Horse. While the track at first listen seems to be a patriotic anthem, it is actually a song that is quite critical of the country. It specifically takes aim at some of the policies and talking points of the George H.W. Bush administration. In that way the song is very similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A..” In fact, just as President Reagan used Springsteen’s song at campaign rallies as a pro-American anthem, President-elect Donald Trump used Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” during his announcement that he was running for President in 2015. Young later asked that Trump not use his song in the future, and after taking some shots at Young on twitter Trump did agree to stop playing the song at his future events. The song was also used widely to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall, and ostensibly the spread of “freedom” across Eastern Europe.

So with the release of Neil Young’s newest album Peace Trail being released this week, we take a few moments to remember his 1989 classic “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Enjoy.


Neil Young

“Rockin’ In The Free World”

From: Freedom

Reprise Records

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Neil Young

“”Indian Givers””

From: Peace Trail

Reprise Records