Friday, April 11, 2014

Long may you run

I am going to share something I learned today. It's a bit trivial, but it surprised me.

I was listening to an old concert from 1974. I had gotten to this concert in part because I was doing something sort of like research for yesterday's blog post. Neil Young was singing, accompanied by himself on guitar and harmonica. It sounds like there were about 60 people in the audience. In this concert he played the song Long May You Run. Apparently it was a couple of years before it was ever released on an album. I have always taken this to be a lovely, almost anthemic song of love and friendship, at once wistful and hopeful and sad. Maybe in some ways similar to Forever Young by Dylan, or One, by U2, or Woodstock, by Joni Mitchell. It is not my all time favorite Neil Young song, but I certainly have always found it bittersweet and lovely.

Long may you run.
Long may you run.
Although these changes
have come
With your chrome heart shining
in the sun
Long may you run.

Today I learned that it is about Neil Young's car.

No, really. 

He said so. He said "I wrote this song for my car." Then he played the song.

Of course, once he said it was written for his car all the lyrics fall into place for it. That chrome heart shining in the sun thing is a real give away. It only gets more specific from there.

Maybe you knew all along it was about his car, I can be strangely inattentive to lyrics, but it was really a bit of a surprise to me.

But maybe it's okay that it's about a car. It makes me think a little bit differently about my family's cute, intrepid, durable little car. It's a Honda. It's silver. My wife and I have driven it well over 100,000 miles now.

We've been through
some things together
With trunks of memories
still to come
We found things to do
in stormy weather
Long may you run.


  1. He also has that wonderful song about his old hound dog, "Old King", another testimony song. Anyway, your experience of the song is interesting, I'm sure one we all we associate something with a song only to find out what the song is *really* about, and how (not sure if it was true for you) it might change the way you hear it. I had this happen with many songs, like "Brokedown Palace," by the Grateful Dead. It's one of my favorite songs. I understand when people say it's about death, about someone who's lived a long time and is near. But I've always heard it differently, in a way that the "brokedown palace" is the whole structure of an identity or self that is let go, and in a very loving and beautiful way. I still hear it that way. Also, "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles. I always thought it was about living in a sea of your own and that yellow is the best color to do such a thing in, so one should spend a lot of time wearing yellow and living alone--only to find out later it was about a yellow submarine.

    1. Thank you for your comprehensive comment. Perhaps you're saying partly it doesn't matter ALL that much what a song is officially about. My attention to and comprehension of lyrics can be wildly OFF and I will become quite attached to my misunderstood lyrics, but even finding the correct lyrics, or having them pointed out to me (fiercely, kindly, or amid laughter), doesn't change my emotional sense for the heart of the song, and the right lyrics still FIT the same way as my wrong ones did to me. I mostly think it's funny the thing about Long May You Run, and a little silly, but, yes, the feeling is still true in the song and then, really, why NOT be about a car. I too love Brokedown Palace (though unlike, um, some people, can't claim to have heard it live like, a hundred times), but I never even HAD a interpretation. Yours seems deeper than the more accepted one that you cite, and more complicated. I suppose that is the argument for artists to leave a lot of doors open in their work. Except, not in Yellow Submarine, which, of course, would flood and plummet to the bottom of the green sea, under the blue sky, and then absolutely nobody would be able to live there.

      Wait! Unless Ringo is a fish singing about sea creatures! Ringo Starrfish!


If you were wondering, yes, you should comment. Not only does it remind me that I must write in intelligible English because someone is actually reading what I write, but it is also a pleasure for me since I am interested in anything you have to say.

I respond to pretty much every comment. It's like a free personalized blog post!

One last detail: If you are commenting on a post more than two weeks old I have to go in and approve it. It's sort of a spam protection device. Also, rarely, a comment will go to spam on its own. Give either of those a day or two and your comment will show up on the blog.