NEW YORK (June 20, 2015) — Neil Young famously sang about wanting to live with a cinnamon girl in 1969. These days, Young would probably be too worried that the cinnamon has been genetically modified.
The legendary rocker has a new album coming out at the end of June called “The Monsanto Years.” And it’s a biting attack on the seed giant — as well as other big corporations.
The title track refers to “the poison tide of Monsanto” and describes a farmer who “signs a deal for GMOs that makes life hell with Monsanto.”
Young also lashes out at Starbucks in a song called “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop.”
“I want a cup of coffee but I don’t want a GMO. I like to start my day off without helping Monsanto,” Young sings in his trademark nasal whine.
The singer announced last November that he would no longer drink Starbucks lattes because the company, along with Monsanto, was part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association trade group.
That organization sued the state of Vermont to overturn a law that would require food and beverage companies to disclose on their labels if GMOs are used in the products.
At that time, both Monsanto and Starbucks told CNNMoney that they were not active parties in the lawsuit. Starbucks even said that it disagrees with the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s stance.
“Starbucks is not a part of any lawsuit pertaining to GMO labeling nor have we provided funding for any campaign,” the company reiterated in a statement to CNNMoney Friday. “And Starbucks is not aligned with Monsanto to stop food labeling or block Vermont State law.”
Monsanto said in a statement that “there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do — and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics.”
The spokesperson added that “many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young” but “his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable.”
This hasn’t satisfied Young, who defended the album’s lyrics earlier this week.
“GMO labeling matters. Mothers need to know what they are feeding their children. They need freedom to make educated choices at the market,” Young said in an e-mailed statement from his manager.
Young also rails against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling on campaign finance in several songs. He has unflattering references to grocery chain Safeway and Chevron as well.
Chevron said in an e-mailed statement that it lobbies “ethically, transparently and in a bipartisan manner, in accordance with all laws.”
And he criticizes Walmart’s labor practices in a song called “Big Box,” which has the following verse: “People working part-time at Walmart never get the benefits for sure.”
Safeway and Walmart were not immediately available for comment. But so far, it looks like Walmart isn’t planning to retaliate against Young. You can preorder “The Monsanto Years” at Walmart.com.
It will be interesting to see if all the media attention will help album sales.
Even though Young has made a name for himself with protest songs like “Ohio” and “Southern Man,” an entire album about “Frankenfood” may not light up the Billboard and iTunes charts.
But it’s been a busy week for Young. He lambasted Donald Trump for using the classic Young song “Rockin’ In the Free World” when he announced he was running for president.
Young said that the song was used without his permission. Young is a Canadian citizen, so he can’t vote for president. But Young added that he is a supporter of Democratic presidential contender and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
A spokesperson for Trump’s campaign said they did pay to use the long through a licensing agreement with The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP. The Trump spokesperson added that Trump won’t use the song again.
It is a bit strange that Trump, a Republican, chose the song in the first place though.
It is highly critical of President George H. W. Bush. “We got a thousand points of light for the homeless man. We got a kinder, gentler, machine gun hand” are some of the lyrics.
But Trump also said in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week that he’s friendly with Young and even met with him at his office a day after seeing Young in concert at Carnegie Hall.
Young conceded in his statement this week that this is true. There is even a photo of Trump and Young together. Young said the meeting was about raising money for his digital music service Pono.
“Music is a universal language. So I am glad that so many people with varying beliefs get enjoyment from my music, even if they don’t share my beliefs,” Young said.