BERLIN — Neil Young has a pessimistic message: Music has lost its power to change the world.
The 62-year-old singer brought his new movie, "CSNY Deja Vu," to the Berlin film festival Friday. The film was shot during the 2006 Freedom of Speech tour by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Young, who directed the movie under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, wasn't making any big claims about its effects.
"I think that the time when music could change the world is past," he told reporters. "I think it would be very naive to think that in this day and age."
Young added: "I think the world today is a different place, and that it's time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world and to try to save the planet."
The sad fact is, music never could change the world.
All the screaming, hair pulling and clothes tearing Beatlemaniacs from London to Tokyo didn't make a lick of difference to anything in the prosaic world of politics and monied men.
Woody Guthrie all by himself did nothing to alleviate the plight of working people under the thumbs of the combines and his spiritual heir, Bob Dylan, could strum his caustic ditties at hootenannies with nary a ripple of effect outside the audience.
No, what music did (note the past tense) is inspire, inflame, and give voice to ideas which could then be put into action.
Thus, politicians would genuflect to their fiscal power and give societal credibility through knighthood to 4 loveable moptops, and union organizers would gird themselves by singing Guthrie's songs as they drove to organizing rallies knowing that goon squads were hot on their trails...And Dylan would create a broadening awareness and reverence among the masses for the lyric as social commentary, rather than a mere teen commercial.
Harlan Howard probably summed it up best - 'three chords and the truth'. Create something timely and populist, and the idea will be shared universally and brought into reality.
We live in cynical times.
It's unfortunate that music has become a sort of audio wallpaper for the masses, but this has been going on for a long while and the blame for that can be shared equally among creators and marketers alike...When your sole concern is money and how to fatten your own wallet, idealism goes begging.
However, that is not to say that music has lost its power to galvanize the people who listen to it.
It's as easy as 1-2-3.
1.Make something relevant to a time, or a situation.
2.Believe in it with all your heart.
3.Never sell out your principles.
It doesn't matter what style it is, how many notes or how few. What matters is that it turns people on, and by doing so effects a change from within causing a desire for change from without.
Try it and see