It can be fairly argued that only three rock icons from the hippy-dippy '60s have really endured: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Neil Young, who is the subject of the massive, keenly detailed and anecdote-laden authorized biography Shakey.
With style and intelligence, veteran music journalist Jimmy McDonough tells the amazing tale of Young's emergence from the Canadian folkie scene into the wild post-Beatles, pre-psychedelic mayhem of mid-1960s L.A., where he first made his mark as a member of the legendary (and legendarily dysfunctional) pop-rock group Buffalo Springfield. Hailed as a songwriter of genius, Young struggled a bit thereafter, mostly in the face of criticism of his reedy, strangely iconoclastic vocal stylings. Yet a string of groundbreaking solo albums Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, Harvest were followed by a highly publicized stint as a member of the acclaimed Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and superstardom was his, with all the attendant professional madness and personal heartache. While most of Young's contemporaries dropped off the industry road map due to natural attrition, he continued to produce music through the '70s, '80s and '90s, building new audiences and maintaining a touring presence while also retooling his act through seemingly unlikely alliances with bands such as Devo and Pearl Jam.
McDonough's analysis of Young's musical vision and brilliance is matched with fascinating insights into the life of a man who has certainly experienced his share of physical and psychic pain his parents' early breakup, childhood polio, extended bouts with epilepsy, failed relationships and marriages (including his very public liaison with actress Carrie Snodgrass), the premature deaths of musical friends from drug overdoses, and the birth of a son with cerebral palsy.
On the surface, Young has always been perceived as a somewhat frail, introspective and private individual. Yet, if nothing else, McDonough's exhaustive, eminently readable account serves as testament to one man's abilities to survive the dog-eat-dog music business and triumph through his art.