Neil Young Calls Out Monsanto and Big Business on The Monsanto Years

Neil Young is not only a rock/folk icon, but also an amazing role model for millennials, and his latest album (his 36th!), The Monsanto Years, just cements that legacy. Young is famous for his social justice advocacies, whether it be the environment, civil rights, pacifism, etc. Monsanto continues that tradition, as it is a blatant concept album about the agribusiness giant Monsanto and its supposed corruption. The album is filled with topical and protest songs that are far from the escapist entertainment that consumes most of today’s music.


The album begins with “A New Day for Love,” a song that praises respect for the Earth, something Young calls “our precious gift.” He also sings, “it’s a bad day to do nothing/ with so many people needing our help/ to keep their lands away from the greedy/ who only plunder for themselves,” a sharp dig to Monsanto, and it only gets shadier from there.

The second song, “Wolf Man,” sounds like old-school Young. It features the harmonica and is by far the folkiest song on the record; all the other songs are electric and some have long guitar interludes. Young used Willie Nelson‘s sons, Lukas and Micah, along with Lukas’ band Promise of the Real as his backing band. The band sounds similar to Crazy Horse which gives the whole album a retro, classic rock feel.

The third track, “People Want to Hear About Love,” is Young at his wittiest. “Don’t say that Citizens United has killed democracy… People want to hear about love now/ If it will make them feel all right,” he sings. His sarcasm highlights how the saying “ignorance is bliss” rings true for so many people, and those people are apathetic about social justice. At 69, it’s admirable how Young truly supports ordinary citizens and refuses to stay quiet about ongoing corruption. Young musicians, take note.

The rest of the album is a call to action for Americans to stand up to injustices and also for large corporations to take a step back. “Big Box” is a total assault on large corporations and how they take advantage of the common citizen. “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop” directly addresses Monsanto (“Monsanto, let our farmers grow what they want to grow”) and states the situation plainly in the lyrics: “The farmers won’t be free to grow what they want to grow/ When corporate control takes over the American farm/ With fascist politicians and chemical giants walking arm in arm”.

“Workin’ Man,” “Rules of Change,” and “Monsanto Years” all touch upon the controversy surrounding Monsanto’s seed patents. “The seeds of life are not what they once were/ Mother Nature and God don’t own them anymore,” Young wails.

The album ends with “If I Don’t Know,” a wistful, slightly optimistic tune. Young keeps repeating the phrase “Veins, the Earth’s blood,” a reference to the first track’s “precious gift.” The song, and the entire album, is a plea to our country that we come together and open our eyes to increasing corruption and dangers happening by our corporations and government. Young has been singing these blues for a while but he sounds more desperate than ever before. Despite your political leanings, you have to respect his desire to speak up for the unheard, which includes all of us too.

Musically, Young produces another slew of great guitar jams, but he rarely experiments with the form and the instrumental patterns get a little repetitive by the album’s end. It’s not a new classic in that regard, but The Monsanto Years‘ social justice ambitions more than make up for its shortcomings.

Featured Image by Takahiro Kyono via Flickr

Album art courtesy of the Artist

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