Neil Young: Helpless Meaning
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Writer: OTIS, JOHNNY/DELAGARDE, MARIO
There is a town in North Ontario
Dream comfort mem'ry to spare
And in my mind I still need a place to go
All my changes were there
Blue, blue windows behind the stars
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:anonymous Apr 17th 2015 report
This song touches me like no other before it and I have no doubt that any will after. It evokes a deep sadness within me, but not one of self-pity, one more of reflection on life. The way human beings treat one another, the loneliness and desperation I have felt at times, and that I know others have as well. I always cry when I listen to it, but without sound, just tears falling, forgetting where I am, and being there again in my mind. It's like even the lyrics disappear at times, and just the sound of the music and the tone of his voice, fill my soul. I have typed and retyped this, searching for the right words, but I can not do my thoughts justice.
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous Feb 16th 2013 report
I lived in Chalk River and Sault Ste. Marie. The song's about being in Northern Ontario. It is a desolate beautiful place. There is a hopeless feeling you get living there but after you leave, you just want to go back. It pulls on you. You're helpless living there. Northern Ontario is a resource economy so jobs are cyclical. Many up there live off government jobs which are just there to put money into the local economy. It is not a bad place and people are not bad. Many are just helpless and can't make there own destiny. Many have to leave to find jobs in the South. Lots of empty nest retired people live in Northern Ontario. Kids are all in the South. The songs about the place and is truthful.
anonymous Apr 10th report
Neil is reflecting on life as a child. Northern Ontario was his world. Its what he remembers and where life was good. It is full of memories and comfort. It is were he became who he is. Most of us have that place we would like to return to, or perhaps run from.
"The chains are locked and tied across my door" is a metaphor stating there is no going back. its helpless.
anonymous Oct 1st 2020 report
I think part of the title HELPLESS includes tsense of helplessness that Young experienced there in Northern Ontario when he contracted poliomyelitis with its pain and partial paralysis sometimes temporary, sometimes not
ALL MY CHANGES WERE there: he grew up, identified with the hybrid town in the lyric, and went through a serious illness, and recovered and became the Neil Young we've known and listened to for so many years.
anonymous Sep 18th 2020 report
Sure... helplessness... the human condition of surrender, like it or not, to... to what? To love, loss, hate, passion, desolation, bounty... life. A song of great mystery and simplicity. Thanks for the thoughts!
anonymous Aug 10th 2020 report
I think the "big birds flying across the sky" are airplanes which would cast "shadows on our eyes".
anonymous May 14th 2020 report
Think he’s referring to military aircraft when he says big blue birds flying across the sky,or some kind of jet?
anonymous Oct 8th 2018 report
To me, this is an utterly gorgeous, heart-wrenching lament for the loss of home, a deeply loved place.
It truly does not get any better than this song.
anonymous Sep 2nd 2018 report
The song "Helpless" by Neil Young made me cry. I had not listened closely to the song in the 1970's. I was young then and of course it can be one's own interpretation, but for me it has special meaning now because my 87 year old mother has dementia. I feel "helpless" to rescue her from this. I just heard the song playing a minute ago. Interesting what a song can mean when you are young versus 48 years later. I tell her about the things we have all done over the years, and we have all lead a good life. There were things related to the war years in her homeland, Germany, that I'm thankful she told me about. I am happy that she DID have a good life but still I do feel sad now realizing that she does not remember.
anonymous Aug 12th 2018 report
I am of aboriginal descent.My maternal grandmother was of mixed blood Metis(French and Indigenous) I have long since left my roots in the N.W.T. of Canada and raised my children in Central America."Helpless""takes me back to my native land , the majestic North,with the images of a yellow moon,big birds flying across the sky and blue windows behind the stars....all my changes were there. I love to listen to this song because it takes me back to my roots and to memories of growing up in northern Canada.
anonymous Jun 22nd 2018 report
I think he was feeling the pain and "helplessness" when his parents split up which changed his family dynamic so profoundly he wrote this timeless piece of art.
anonymous Dec 31st 2017 report
It means exactly what ever you interpret it in your own mind. For some it is loss and for some it is hope. Art is looked at and affects each person differently, for me it's about not being able to return to that most beautiful place in your life, perhaps thru death or by losing someone who truly loved being up North and knowing that is where they were truly happy, but even in death there is hope and faith, that they are waiting there for us. Northern Michigan is that place for me and haven't had the experience to go as far as Northern Ontario.
NEIL YOUNG turned a helpless feeling to hope in this enjoyable song to listen to about a town in North Ontario, possibly Thunderbay or OMEMME, where Neil endured the changes and had many childhood dreams that he mostly loved there I believe with wonder and amazement that became a little overwhelming and overshadowed by the experiences of ''one lost love''there to leave behind, locked up in his mind like a heavenly place. That he is yearning to unlock one day, but it's unreachable now that leaves them helpless. Helpless also in his condition on the road to pursue his earthly dream looking up to the otherside of the blue blue sky that is over the rainbow to go into some kind of a new dimension ''symbolically speaking'' to reach stardom or the stars that are on the otherside. Very creative and love these words by Neil ''BIG BIRDS FLYING ACROSS THE SKY" ''BLUE, BLUE WINDOWS BEHIND THE STARS''
anonymous Jul 13th 2013 report
It's about drugs and the more more you use makes you helpless in your mind you still need a place to go but your trapped gazing at what life could have been .
anonymous Mar 12th 2013 report
I played this song at my friend's funeral.
He died of Colon cancer after two years of a hard and painful battle.
We teased it during an instrumental which we played on guitar as people took communion.
I found the sentiment captured the feeling most had throughout the ordeal -
Being utterly helpless.
anonymous Jul 21st 2012 report
This is one of the greatest songs ever written. The fact that no one has previously bothered to comment on it,while dozens of people make earnest comments about the cliche ridden drivel of coldplay's Viva the Vida, makes me wonder. Unlike that songs global grandiosity and historical mishmash, this is a beautiful, subtle and mystical song about home and longing and being blocked and trapped in life's mystery.
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