In wake of the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last month, Canadian-American rock veteran Neil Young is calling for “new laws,” “new rules for policing” and an overall “real change” to help put a stop to racism.
While also sharing a previously unreleased 2019 performance of his 1970, fan-favourite hit Southern Man, Young, 73, had some words to say about racism and how it’s “been going on for way too long” in a statement shared to his website.
As touched upon by the Heart of Gold singer on Wednesday, Southern Man discusses the issue of unjust treatment and racism towards Black communities, specifically in the southern states.
“Here’s me as an old guy singin’ his 50-year-old song that was written after countless years of racism in the USA,” wrote Young in the statement issued to the Neil Young Archives (NYA) website on June. 3.
“And look at us today. This has been going on for way too long. It’s not just Southern Man now. It’s everywhere across the USA,” the Toronto-born musician added. “It’s time for real change, new laws, new rules for policing.”
In the five-decade-old track, Young expresses hope that there will be an eventual “change,” or end, to systemic racism in the U.S.’s future.
The multiple-time Grammy Award winner includes references to slavery — using lines like “I heard bullwhips cracking” — and the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist hate group.
“Southern change gonna come at last / Now your crosses are burning fast,” he sings. “I saw cotton and I saw black / Tall white mansions and little shacks / Southern Man, when will you pay them back?”
Additionally, Young said Southern Man “could have been written (during) a civil rights march after stopping off to watch Gone With The Wind at a local theater” in the liner notes for his 1977 compilation album Decade.
Since then, however, Young revealed that he doesn’t think the lyrics for the song were “thought out” enough in his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace.
“I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue,” he wrote in the book.
Young’s 2019 performance of Southern Man can be seen, in its entirety, via the NYA website.
The performance was taken from an upcoming live album called Polar Vortex, according to the singer.
Floyd, a Black man, was killed on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis.
An autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family has since found that his death was caused by asphyxiation. The family’s autopsy differs from the official autopsy listed in the criminal complaint against the officer, which found that Floyd’s death was caused by cardiac arrest.
All four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired.
Derek Chauvin, the officer filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter last week. On Wednesday, it was announced that Chauvin is facing a new second-degree murder and the other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.