The Song Neil Young Targeted Eric Clapton

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Neil Young, a multifaceted artist known for his songwriting, musicianship, activism, and philanthropy, embarked on his influential music journey in the 1960s. His relocation to Los Angeles marked the beginning of his illustrious career, leading to his association with Buffalo Springfield and later, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Young’s discography boasts critically acclaimed albums such as ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,’ ‘After The Gold Rush,’ ‘Rust Never Sleeps,’ and ‘Harvest.’

During the late 1980s, it became a trend for celebrities to endorse brands through television commercials, with notable examples including David Bowie and Tina Turner for Pepsi, Michael Jackson’s iconic soft drink ad, Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ Pepsi commercial, Whitney Houston’s Diet Coke jingle, and Eric Clapton’s Michelob beer ad. Neil Young took a stand against this commercialization with his song targeting Clapton and other artists who leveraged their music for advertising.

With the release of his 16th studio album, ‘This Note’s For You’, on April 11, 1988, Neil Young critiqued the rampant commercialism in the music industry. The album, and particularly its title track, was a satirical nod to the Budweiser ad slogan “This Bud’s for you,” mocking the practice of artists endorsing products.

MTV initially shunned the music video for ‘This Note’s For You’ due to its direct mention of sponsor brands and a legal threat from Michael Jackson’s attorneys. Despite this, the video later won MTV’s Best Video of the Year in 1989 and enjoyed frequent airplay, following a surge in popularity.

Neil Young’s management responded to MTV’s initial ban by highlighting the satirical nature of the video, critiquing MTV’s fear of upsetting sponsors. Neil Young himself lambasted MTV for their hesitance, provocatively questioning whether the ‘M’ in MTV stood for music or money, as reported by Rolling Stone.

Neil Young’s ‘This Note’s For You’ music video served as a parody of the 1980s advertising frenzy, featuring lookalikes of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Spuds McKenzie, alongside references to ads that starred Eric Clapton, Genesis, and Steve Winwood. Through this bold satire, Young underscored his disdain for the blurring lines between music and commercial interests, firmly positioning himself as a defender of artistic integrity in the rock and roll landscape.

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