James McDonough   Shakey  
James McDonough  
Read an Interview with James McDonough

Read an Excerpt from Shakey


The title for SHAKEY: Neil Young's Biography by Jimmy McDonough, comes from one of the many aliases Neil Young conjured for himself along the lines of Bernard Shakey, Shakey Deal, and Phil Perspective. That might have been the first clue that Young wasn't going to be sitting camera-ready for his official portrait. As it was, McDonough spent a dozen years on the road to the world according to Neil Young only to sue him for the right to publish. His passages about the songs, the studio sessions and the tours is fantastic-obsessive. The history of the early Neil Young, his childhood in Canada, bout with poliomyelitis, his parent's painful divorce, his utter determination to succeed as a musician and lead his bands, and his eventual ability to conquer epilepsy by a mind-over-matter approach come across like the beautiful ruins of an ancient civilization—they are tantalizing and ripe for speculative interpretation but remain ambiguous on the question of what fueled the abstractions of lyrics, the powerful guitar chords or the impressive duration of the artist's creativity.

SHAKEY is a tribute, an investigation and an extraordinary record of the rock machine viewed through the windshield of one of its greatest locomotives. Reading this biography it comes as no surprise that Neil Young is still challenging himself and his audience with songs like his latest title cut "Are You Passionate?" In Jimmy McDonough, Young has found a writer who can't say no.

-- Catherine McWeeney

Bold Type

Bold Type
Bold Type
  Photo credit: Natalia Wisdom

Send us comments