Neil Young: the quiet achiever ( excerpt )
May 11 2002
Neil Young usually turns down interview requests, but he opens up to Burhan Wazir about toy trains, shyness and the death of Kurt Cobain.
"...His answer leads to a comfortable silence. I eventually ask him if he finds his thoughts turning to Kurt Cobain. They never met, but credited each other's music in the media. He tells me he tried to reach the Nirvana singer in the week he died.
"I read something and someone told me a few things that made me think he was in trouble that week," sighs Young. For the first time, he is not looking directly at me, but staring off across the table. He describes how he tried, over three or four days in the first week of April in 1994, to reach Cobain. "I even had my office look for him." By that Friday evening, Cobain had taken a life-threatening dose of heroin and shot himself.
In a suicide note Cobain left, later broadcast by his widow, Courtney Love, Young found himself inextricably linked with the singer's death. Cobain had ended his letter with an old Young lyric: "It's better to burn out than to fade away."
Destroyed by grief, Young hit the studio and recorded his bleakest work, Sleeps With Angels. It was released with a moratorium on interviews. "I've never really spoken about why I made that album," Young told an interviewer in 1995. "I don't want to start now."
But today, he opens up. "I like to think
that I possibly could have done something," he says, concentrating on
finding the right words. "I was just trying to reach him. Trying to
connect up with him." He pauses and thinks again. "It's just too bad
I didn't get a shot. I had an impulse to connect. Only when he used my song in
that suicide note was the connection made. Then, I felt it was really
unfortunate that I didn't get through to him. I might've been able to make
things a little lighter for him, that's all. Just lighten it up a little
"Neil Young: the quiet achiever" The
Sydney Morning Herald. © 2002