On May 26, Neil Young and his new band the Promise of the Real (featuring Willie Nelson's sons Micah and Lukas) released the video for "A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop," a song from his new album The Monsanto Years (out June 29 on Reprise). The 69-year-old firebrand hasn't lost a step, calling out corporations like Monsanto, Starbucks and Walmart by name over farm policies, GMOs and labor practices. In the interest of hearing from both sides, Billboard sent Young's lyrics to these organizations and asked for a response. Here are the results.
“People Want to Hear Songs About Love”
“Don’t talk about the Chevron millions
Going to the pipeline politicians”
Chevron: "I received your media inquiry, however we are not going to participate in the interview."
“People workin’ part time at Walmart never get the benefits for sure
Might not make it to full-time at Walmart”
Walmart: "As you might have seen recently, Walmart raised its lowest starting wage to $9 an hour. We’re proud of the opportunity we provide people to build a career and have a chance at a better life."
"A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop"
“A rock star bucks a coffee shop
Yeah, I want a cup of coffee
But I don’t want a GMO
I’d like to start my day off
Without helpin’ Monsanto
Ask Starbucks if coffee has GMO…
Monsanto let our farmers grow what they want to grow
When the people of Vermont voted to label food with GMOs
So they would know what was in what the farmer grows
Monsanto and Starbucks through the grocery manufacturers alliance
Sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will
Monsanto and Starbucks, mothers want to know what they feed their children”
Starbucks: "Starbucks has not taken a position on the issue of GMO [genetically modified organism] labeling. As a company with stores and a product presence in every state, we prefer a national solution."
“When you shop for your daily bread and walk the aisles of Safeway
Find a package to catch your eye that makes you smile at Safeway
Choose a picture of an old red barn on a field of green
With the farmer and his wife and children, to complete the scene at Safeway
The family seeds they used to save were gifts from God not Monsanto
Their own child grows ill near the poisoned crop
While they work on, they can’t find an easy way to stop Monsanto …
Give us this day our daily bread, and let us not go with Monsanto”
Monsanto: "Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young. Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize 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."
An edited version of this article first appeared in the June 20 issue of Billboard.