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“The Needle and the Damage Done”

Posted by purplemary54 on September 21, 2012

I have been nominated for an award by the lovely Kina, which I will get to tomorrow–partly because I need a little time to think about it, and partly because I can’t stop thinking about this song.

Neil Young wrote this song in the early 70s in response to the heroin addiction and/or deaths of bandmates, roadies, and friends.  Heroin is one of the ugliest drugs ever.  From what I’ve heard and seen, it is insidious and almost impossible to get away from.  (It’s the one real moral and emotional challenge I have to my stance that all drugs should be legalized.  The only way I can justify it to myself is that it would at least be regulated.)  The music world, especially, has been hard hit by heroin.  In 197o, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose.  Jimmy Page managed to survive it, somehow.  Eric Clapton, too.  Jerry Garcia struggled with it for years.  I could keep going, but frankly, it’s starting to depress me.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” is such an odd emotional experience.  Young wrote it shortly after a roadie for Crazy Horse died of an overdose, so the palpable grief is understandable.  But listen a little closer and you can hear rage.  And just underneath the rage, terror.  I can imagine the helplessness of watching someone you love descend further and further into a hell of their own making.  That’s where the rage and terror come from, I think–knowing that the addiction is killing someone, and you can’t do anything to stop it.  You just get to stand by and watch.

“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done, a little part of it in everyone.”


4 Responses to ““The Needle and the Damage Done””

  1. alundeberg said

    We have a couple friends who survived heroin, but we have also lost friends to other addictions. It’s frustrating to feel helpless as everything unfolds. I have always liked this song– mostly for that message.

  2. GlennVU said

    One of the most beautiful songs in the world…
    until you hear the lyrics. A strong song with something to tell.

    Really great blogpost

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