Somewhere over the 49th parallel, way up north, there’s a land that you’ve heard of, once in a history lesson, maybe. It’s called “Canada.” And it is a place where the dreams that you’ve dared to dream really do come true.
Like the dream about how rock and roll didn’t die in the 60s, or the 70s, or the 80s, or the 90s, and instead has just been “on the road” for a while, and shows up at your doorstep one day with a “sorry, dude” and a bottle of overproof bourbon and then plays you a protest song on harmonica while smoking a Marlboro and getting your mom naked. Then you all drink mushroom tea and go bear-riding.
Or, like, your second-craziest dream. In this one, Justin Bieber gets nominated for yet another award that he will obviously win because pop culture is ruled by tweenagers who don’t believe in music, and then NO, GUESS WHAT, Neil Young, the godfather of grunge, wins it.
That happened. Actually.
See, in “Canada,” we have this music award show called “the Junos,” which would be just like an American music award show if anybody besides us watched it. It happened last night while you were watching Mildred Pierce on HBO. It was supposed to be a really exciting “the Junos,” I think because it was the first time Celine Dion wasn’t nominated. But I still didn’t think it was exciting enough to go, even when my friend got me passes, so I watched Mildred Pierce on HBO, too. We can talk about that sex scene later.
Because riiight in the middle of it is when Neil Young won fucking artist of the year, and Justin Bieber did not. You might have felt a little shake of the earth and thought, “Japan?” But that was only the free world rocking.
Mr. Young was nominated because he made an album called ‘Le Noise,’ but mostly because he’s fucking Neil Young. Also nominated: Drake, whose cool, desensualized, hardly original R&B is what I like to call Grand Theft Autotune; Sarah McLachlan, who will not be forgiven for bringing back Lilith Fair; Johnny Reid (you don’t know him, don’t worry about it); and the Biebs, who won the same category at the American Music Awards, making him the youngest-ever artist-of-the-year. (Never say never.) Drake was the show’s host; Bieber, the fave.
I went home and watched the repeat show and when Neil Young got up on stage, he said, “What year is this?” That’s perfect. And before that, when he won an award for his humanitarian work, including but not limited to a) building the Bridge School for severely learning-impaired kids and b) co-founding the Farm Aid benefit concerts and c) not putting his own name on either of those things and d) not being a shrivelled-up dickhead with a 28-year-old Sports Illustrated model wife, he gave a speech. It is a speech that will turn your whole heart to gold, just like Neil Young’s heart, and then melt it and re-shape it into a bigger heart.
“To try to do this humanitarian-y kind of thing, you need to look inside yourself.”
“And the musicians, they should not worry about helping others, they should focus on their music first, because the music is the language of love and the language that we all feel together.
“So music makes it happen, and then if you’re lucky and you have an opportunity, it’s a good thing to do, to go ahead and try to do something yourself.”
“You just gotta look inside yourself and the eyes of your friends, and you’ll find the secret of how to be a humanitarian. So, love to you.”
I know humans are grey of soul and fated to selfish ends, and yet this speech makes me want to believe in something else, something good and true and alive and “humanitarian-y,” and it makes me want to be that thing, almost, or at least to be half the person I was when I was six. Love to you, too, Neil Young. And love to you.