In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, director Jonathan Demme explained why he’s been inspired to shoot three documentaries about a certain iconic rocker: “His music was my companion for decades before I even met him.” Amen to that. The Toronto concert footage at the center of Neil Young Journeys includes a rendition of “Ohio,” his wrenching song about four people killed 42 years ago by the National Guard during an anti-war demonstration at Kent State University. This was a defining moment in an era that tore America to shreds. Young’s May 2011 performances deliver a gritty reminder, enhanced by a visual display with the names and photos of the May 1970 victims.
Three months later, “Ohio” was also the tune emanating from the sound system of a drug store on the Champs Elysee in Paris, where my husband and I – newlyweds – had landed in an attempt to flee the madness of the United States. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/ We’re finally on our own/ This summer I hear the drumming/ Four dead in Ohio...” I froze. There is no exit from man-made hell, as Sartre suggested. Wherever we went on a trip through Europe that was more escape hatch than honeymoon, the turmoil back home found a way to haunt us.