In the US, republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has been heating up the primary elections game with his unauthorized use of Neil Young’s 1989 rock anthem “Rockin in the Free World”.
The irony in the Trump staff’s choice of music lies, of course, in the lyrics of Rockin’ In The Free World. The song is obviously an attack on right-wing US policy, both foreign and domestic, during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.
Instead of just looking up the lyrics, check out this iconic performance of “Rockin’ in the Free World” from Saturday Night Live back in 1989. Young actually worked out just before going on stage to get in the mood. Not known for being a big fan of TV performances, Young wanted to grasp for the emotional state normally reached during a two hour concert. Frantically jumping around, kicking and soloing on his Les Paul guitar, he’s backed by a tight band (Charlie Drayton, Steve Jordan, and longtime collaborator Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro).
The anger and sadness of this live cut are so perfectly channeled into Young’s voice and the drum fill in the last verse at “We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand”. It certainly gives me the chills, every time.
“Rockin’ in the Free World” was originally published on Young’s 1989 album Freedom, which reestablished his career a little bit. The album included two versions of the song, one resembling the intense rocker seen on SNL and an acoustic version as the opening track.