Neil Young’s Homophobia and AIDS-phobia

“You go to a supermarket and you see a faggot behind the fuckin’ cash register, you don’t want him to handle your potatoes.” – Neil Young in Melody Maker, September 1985

It sucks when anybody makes an ignorant and offensive statement, particularly when it’s somebody the public eye. For this post I‘ll focus on homophobia (and related AIDS-phobia).

It sucks when Pat Boone says children are being “indoctrinated with an appreciation for homosexuality,” but that didn’t hurt me too much as Pat Boone is a talentless has-been who built his career on taking songs recorded by Little Richard and Fats Domino and making them safe for uptight white folks. I wasn’t his target audience (notwithstanding that I wasn’t born yet when he rose to fame).

It sucks when Donny Osmond says he condemns homophobia and opposes gay marriage, but at least he’s (inadvertently) condemning himself, thereby saving me the trouble. Also, he’s marginally more talented and slightly less of a has-been than Pat Boone, and while I love “Morning Side of the Mountain,” if someone told me I had to delete all Osmonds recordings from my iTunes library, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight.

It sucks that Eminem’s new song has the lyric “Happy as Anderson Cooper having a tuba crammed in his pooper.” It’s not so much that it’s homophobic per se. It’s that a 42-year-old feels he has to resort to such juvenilia to feel relevant and not see his career go the way of Pat Boone and Donny Osmond. He doesn’t need to stoop to this. He still sells truckloads of records, despite having made only one or two good singles in the past decade. He could probably keep coasting for a while. And seriously, a tuba? That doesn’t even rhyme.

It sucks that The Beastie Boys wanted to title their first album Don’t Be a Faggot, with a couple of song lyrics that were interpreted as homophobic. However, in 1999 the trio’s Ad-Rock sent a letter to Time Out New York that read “I would like to … formally apologize to the entire gay and lesbian community for the shitty and ignorant things we said on our first record, 1986′s Licensed to Ill. There are no excuses. But time has healed our stupidity. … We hope that you’ll accept this long overdue apology.”

It’s odd that director Jonathan Demme reached out to Neil Young to compose and record a theme song for his 1993 film Philadelphia. Demme told The Toledo Blade that the film was “intended to reach an audience in desperate need of sensitization on the issue of homophobia. We thought how the right movie could help young males – the most rigid of all – open up to the humanity and courage of gay people. So I had this idea that I would start it off with a giant Neil Young guitar anthem and it would relax all the young uptight homophobic guys.” So he asked a guy who thought AIDS was spread via potatoes touched by faggots. Young recorded a song for the film, and while it wasn’t the anthem Demme was expecting (Bruce Springsteen ended up providing that), it fit the film well and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, which it lost to Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia.”

I don’t recall Neil Young ever apologizing for his boneheaded homophobic and AIDS-phobic remarks; however, I don’t recall him making similar statements since the mid-eighties, and that may be better than an apology.

In his 2002 biography of Neil Young, Shakey, Jimmy McDonough writes “I had found out that Young was planning on donating the proceeds from the ‘Philadelphia’ track to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis center. He acknowledged it was true but didn’t seem anxious to publicize the fact. I got the feeling there were other chartable acts I didn’t know about. ‘I’m not trying to score any social points,’ he said.”

Today Neil Young turns 69 years old. Here are twenty career highlights. (NOTE – “Philadelphia” is not on Spotify.)

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2 Comments

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2 Responses to Neil Young’s Homophobia and AIDS-phobia

  1. Tooba Puper

    “Tuba” and “pooper” do rhyme. It’s called a broken rhyme.

  2. Regina Volare

    huh, I thought the beastie boys Were gay.

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