Neil Young Angrily Defends Farm Aid's Reputation
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Author: Greg Kot, Tribune Music Critic
Published: September 19, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Chicago Tribune Company
Even before the 11 hours of music began Sunday at Farm Aid's 20th
anniversary concert, Neil Young was fighting mad.
He delivered one of the more passionate performances the annual charity
show has ever seen without lifting a guitar. Instead, at a media
conference packed with farm advocates preceding the onstage revelry at
the Tweeter Center in Tinley Park, Young took this newspaper to task for
a story printed in its Saturday edition that questioned the charity's
distribution of funds.
The Tribune report "hurt our reputation" by distorting the charity's
mission, Young said. "We are not purely raising money for farmers.
That's a small part of what we do." He explained that Farm Aid funds
myriad activities, from political lobby groups to suicide prevention,
that aid farmers.
"The people at the Chicago Tribune should be held responsible for this
piece of crap," Young stormed, then ripped a copy of the newspaper in
half and tossed it aside to a room full of cheers.
The controversy clouded what was otherwise a sunlit celebration for an
organization that has raised $27 million for family farms since its
first concert in 1985.
Young, who has consistently played the outspoken and frequently
cantankerous caretaker of all things Farm Aid next to Willie Nelson's
grandfatherly philosopher, sustained that level of intensity a half-day
later when he took the stage with a band that included a gospel choir, a
Nashville rhythm section and a Memphis horn section.
Aid to Gulf Coast
He noted that Farm Aid has been heavily involved in aiding Gulf Coast
farmers since Hurricane Katrina struck, and performed a horn-spackled
version of Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans." He followed with a
brutal "Southern Man," punctuated by several fierce guitar solos. "When
God Made Me" offered solace at the grand piano. Nelson and Emmylou
Harris joined the singer for the ballads "This Old Guitar" and "One of
These Days," which offered reassurance by leaning on old friends and
trusted rituals. Young's anger had given way once again to the idea that
a community can see its way through any crisis.
Most of the other headliners stuck to a more predictable script, but
their greatest-hits sets went over well. John Mellencamp punched out
defiant versions of "Authority Song" and "Crumblin' Down," but it was
violinist Miriam Sturm who redefined the character of every song with
her taut virtuosity.
Dave Matthews joined Widepread Panic for the gospel lament "None of Us
Are Free," then later offered solo renditions of some of his best-known
songs. Without the usual gaggle of showboating soloists flying around
him, Matthews honed his sometimes marble-mouthed phrasing to a fine
point on "Gravedigger" and "Don't Drink the Water," in which he
referenced Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."
Guthrie's lyrics also figured in Wilco's buoyant set. Like Young, singer
Jeff Tweedy loudly took issue with the Tribune's Farm Aid story before
launching into a spirited "The Late Greats." But it's likely the band's
greatest Farm Aid memory came before it played a note, when it was given
a fire-and-brimstone introduction by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Buddy Guy did some fire-and-brimstoning of his own, as he took one of
his acolytes to blues school for the first time. He and his band were
joined by John Mayer, who played the role of the young upstart learning
at the foot of the master guitarist. Mayer's earnestly competent solos
were met with a smile and a barrage of shards and splinters from Guy's
spectacularly casual string-bending.
Complete 'Alice's Restaurant'
It wasn't until Guy took the stage in the late afternoon that the
concert gained focus. Earlier, Arlo Guthrie performed all 17 minutes of
his '60s talking blues, "Alice's Restaurant," and performers such as
Jimmy Sturr's polka band and the Second Amendments, a collection of U.S.
congressmen playing garage-rock covers, gave the concert a bloated,
directionless feel. It backlogged the later acts, and Nelson didn't get
on stage until almost midnight to end the show.
Even then, however, enthusiasm in the audience was high. Nelson drifted
through the proceedings like a benevolent, gray-haired eminence. He
played modest cameo roles alongside his Texas comrades, Los Lonely Boys,
and even grinned his way through Sturr's wide-eyed fiddle solos.
Whereas Young had blood in his eye most of the day, Nelson calmly
assessed the damage and vowed to plow ahead, wry humor intact. "We have
a new motto for our critics out there," he said. "We're not happy till
you're not happy."
Farm Aid Singer Rips Up, Stomps on Newspaper
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Author: Art Golab, Staff Reporter
Published: September 20, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Sun-Times Co.
In a press conference after the Farm Aid concert last weekend in Tinley
Park, musician Neil Young tore up a copy of a Chicago newspaper and
stomped on it.
What made him mad was an article critical of the farm charity for giving
away less than 28 percent of its budget in direct grants.
"We are not purely raising money to give to farmers," Young said.
"That's only a small part of what we do. We are available 24/7, 365 days
a year to the American farmer. That's what we do. That costs a little
bit of money.''
If those expenditures were included in the total, it would show that the
charity spent 76 percent of its budget on its mission of helping
farmers, with the remaining 24 percent going for administrative and
fund-raising expenses, Farm Aid officials said.
That's well above standards set by the Better Business Bureau and other
charity watchdog groups that recommend charities spend at least 65
percent on program services, according to Glenda Yoder, associate
director at Farm Aid.
She said that in addition to the $387,641 in direct checks it wrote to
57 groups supporting farmers, Farm Aid spent an additional $521,299 on
services and programs that help farmers both directly and indirectly.
Those services include maintaining a hotline that connects farmers with
everything from the right government agency to credit and suicide
counselors. Total expenditures were $1,189,754.
Why California Concert Cheaper
The hotline recently has been flooded with calls from farmers from the
Gulf states, including calls seeking diesel fuel to run milking machines
and requests for money for groceries.
"It takes money to have that hotline in our office and to maintain a
directory so that our staff knows who has the best services out there,"
said Yoder. She said her group also spends money to educate the public
on the advantages of family farming over factory farming and supports
efforts by family farmers to market directly to consumers.
Charity watchdog groups generally don't make a distinction between
direct grants and total program expenses, according to Daniel Borochoff,
president of the Chicago-based American Institute of Philanthropy.
"You have to realize that non-profits, as well as giving out grants or
direct aid, they also provide services and that can be as worthwhile as
providing direct aid," said Borochoff. Singer Neil Young was also upset
that the article, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune, compared the
$853,000 cost of putting on Farm Aid in 2003 to the $76,000 cost of a
school benefit concert Young stages every year in California.
Young said there's one big difference: He gets his California venue for
free. The singer said that the article compared the cost "for Farm Aid
to the cost of sound and lights for a concert that happens in the same
place every year. The comparison is nonexistent."
Contributing: Dave Hoekstra
Farm Aid Stars Shine in Benefit Show, 20 Years
Source: Reuters (Wire)
Author: Ros Krasny
Published: September 18, 2005
Copyright: 2005 Reuters Limited
Tinley Park, Illinois -- Farm Aid staged its 20th annual benefit concert
on Sunday, with a galaxy of stars pledging help for overlooked rural
victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The daylong show at an outdoor arena south of Chicago grossed $1.3
million in ticket sales and played to an enthusiastic crowd of more than
28,000 for over ten hours.
Farm Aid's president, Texas music legend Willie Nelson, with trademark
long braid, black cowboy hat and battered guitar "Trigger," closed the
show after energetic performances by fellow founding members Neil Young
and John Mellencamp.
After thanking the crowd for its support of Farm Aid's Gulf Coast relief
effort, Young launched into Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans" and a
blistering "Southern Man," his rarely performed early 1970s anthem about
Singer Dave Matthews, who joined the Farm Aid board several years ago,
said he was "still a little nervous" during a solo performance but less
so around "big brothers like Willie, Neil and John."
Others on the bill included Wilco, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris and country
singer Kenny Chesney, appearing days after splitting with wife, actress
FARM SUPPORT GROUP CARVES NEW NICHE
Conceived by Nelson during the depths of the U.S. farm income crisis and
first staged in Champaign, Illinois, in 1985, when Bob Dylan and Johnny
Cash were among the headliners, Farm Aid has survived to see better
times for many farmers.
The group is now closely associated with the "good food movement" of
small-scale and organic producers against huge factory farms and
corporate-driven production agriculture.
"We are here to promote food from family farms," said Caroline Mugar,
executive director of Farm Aid. "Changing the food you buy changes the
way your food is grown."
The number of farmers' markets in the United States rose by 79 percent
in 2002 from 1994. The organic food industry grew by 20 percent in 2003
to account for more than $10 billion in consumer sales.
Farm Aid's organizers moved quickly to ensure that some funds from the
concert were earmarked for rural areas on the Gulf Coast devastated by
Hurricane Katrina in late August, which they say have been neglected by
"It's hard to believe President George Bush gave a speech in New Orleans
about disaster recovery and failed to mention the word 'farm' or the
word 'rural,'" said Jim Hightower, a columnist and former Texas
Two decades worth of Farm Aid events have raised some $27 million, of
which the group says over 80 percent has been spent on programs to
promote family farming.
Of that, only a small percentage goes directly to farmers in the form of
grants, the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday, raising the hackles of
the Farm Aid organization.
The goals of Farm Aid are broader than just cutting checks to needy
farmers, said Brian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania
Association for Sustainable Agriculture.
"Farmers want organizations like Farm Aid to organize across the country
and create an equitable food system," he said, adding that small-scale
farmers aimed to be vocal as the 2007 U.S. Farm Bill covering federal
agricultural subsidies is written.
The Chicago-based American Institute of Philanthropy has graded Farm Aid
an A-minus is terms of financial efficiency, ranking it ahead of
charities including the American Heart Association and Amnesty
Nelson sings before a crowd estimated
to be in excess of 50,000 people at the
10th annual Farm Aid concert held at Cardinal Stadium
in Louisville Ky., in this Oct. 1 1995 file photo.
Farm Aid will hold its 20th anniversary celebration
in Illinois, Nelson announced Monday, July 11, 2005.
The 20th anniversary concert, which will take place
on Sept. 18, will feature Nelson, Mellencamp,
Neil Young and Dave Matthews, plus other artists
to be named later, and will be the culmination
of a week of food and music events around Chicago.
AP Photo ~ Timothy D. Easley
Farm Aid Going Back To Its Roots for 20th Anniversary
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Author: Nathaniel Hernandez, Associated Press
Published: July 13, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Associated Press
Chicago -- Twenty years after Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil
Young organized a daylong music festival in central Illinois to benefit
cash-strapped farmers, Farm Aid is coming back to the state where it
started to celebrate its anniversary.
The three icons will take the stage Sept. 18 at the Tweeter Center in
the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, organizers announced Monday.
A growing demand for organic products is giving a boost to their efforts
to raise millions of dollars to help the people who work the land. "A
lot more people are interested in finding out where their food comes
from now than they were 20 years ago. And as they find out more and more
about it, they agree with us that it is important to keep the family
farmer on the land growing organic food," said Nelson.
The Dave Matthews Band will join the three co-founders at the show and
other acts will be announced at a later date, organizers said.
The first Farm Aid concert was held in 1985 in the central Illinois city
of Champaign, attracting 80,000 fans and raising $9 million. Over the
two decades, Farm Aid concerts have raised more than $27 million to help
farmers, organizers said.
Mellencamp said Farm Aid helps level the playing field for small farmers
who are waging a battle against corporate interests.
"Farm Aid has always been about a dream of equality for the little guy,"
Tickets go on sale July 30. A weeklong series of events preceding the
concert also are being planned for the Chicago area, including a film
festival, small venue performances and the release of a book titled Farm
Aid: A Song for America.
Farm Aid 2004: Washington State
from Neil Young
Farm Aid Debuts in The West ~ Concert Tops Goal of $1 Million
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Author: Patrick MacDonald, Seattle Times Music Critic
Published: Sunday, September 19, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Seattle Times Company
Farm Aid, one of the largest and longest-running benefit concert events in America, played its first West Coast date yesterday at the White River Amphitheatre on the Muckleshoot Reservation in Auburn, and it was an unqualified success.
The all-day event, featuring some of the biggest names in country and rock music, achieved its goal of raising $1 million, and then some, for family farms.
All 20,000 tickets were sold for the event. A worldwide audience watched the show live via the Internet, on the charity's Web site --
www.farmaid.org -- with many paying for $10 "virtual tickets."
Country legend Willie Nelson, the founder/leader/guru of Farm Aid, was ever-present, appearing at press conferences, introducing acts onstage and performing with several of them, as well as playing his own headlining set.
In its 19th year, the prestigious event was a model of efficiency. There was little waiting time between the dozen acts, as each one's equipment and instruments were on movable platforms. When one act was finished, its platform was moved away and the next act's quickly brought in.
Speakers on agricultural issues, short Farm Aid videos and presentations of large donations — for example, Nelson accepting a check from Silk soy milk for $100,000, like at a Jerry Lewis telethon — took place between sets.
Reporters and photographers from around the country covered the event and gathered for a series of press conferences in a well-wired press room, on such topics as genetically engineered foods and mad-cow disease.
Mother Nature cooperated as the music began around 3 p.m. A slight drizzle stopped and the sun even peeked through now and then. Heavy clouds threatened all day, but the event remained mostly dry until darkness, when some rain fell.
Farm Aid came to the Northwest thanks to Dave Matthews, a Seattle resident and newest member of the charity's board, along with Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, all of whom performed yesterday.
Matthews, accompanying himself on guitar, was in a buoyant mood (he confessed he'd had "a few whiskies"), but performed a set of mostly somber songs, including his meditation on death, "Grave Digger," a cover of Bob Dylan's "Oh, Sister," and several new ones, including "Butterfly," written for his young twin daughters.
Mellencamp and band featured "Rain on the Scarecrow," his powerful song about struggling farmers, as well as rock and blues songs, including his hits "Little Pink Houses" and "Paper and Fire."
"Country outlaw" Steve Earle, accompanying himself on guitar, mandolin and harmonica, performed gritty songs about the Civil War, religious strife in the Holy Land, and the Old West, along with angry comments about the war in Iraq.
Lucinda Williams' rich Southern drawl and battered straw cowboy hat made her seem right at home, and she and her band played eloquent, moving, sometimes energetic songs about rural life and troubled love.
Legendary rocker Jerry Lee Lewis had the crowd on its feet as he pounded on the piano during a short set of his classics, including "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire."
Other acts included country trio Trick Pony and funky drummer Tony Coleman, with Nelson joining both their sets, as well as Blue Merle, Kitty Jerry and Kate Voegele.
The show went on for more than eight hours. At press time, Young was about to take the stage, with Nelson to follow.
Good Show, Good Cause
Source: Tacoma News Tribune (WA)
Author: Ernest Jasmin, The News Tribune
Published: September 19th, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Tacoma News Inc.
Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis and a slew of country and rock greats rolled into Auburn White River Amphitheatre on Saturday to champion the small-family farmer, the primary focus of Farm Aid.
Young captured the underlying theme during his acoustic set as he encouraged a packed house to buy food from small farmers instead of grocery store chains.
"Go help out some families, not some board of directors," he said.
Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Steve Earle, Trick Pony and Lucinda Williams were among the others who performed at Farm Aid's first West Coast stop since Nelson launched the annual benefit show in 1985. The event also was broadcast on the Internet at
With more than eight hours of music and a lineup packed with veteran talent and rising stars, there were bound to be plenty of magical moments.
Earle, a political country rocker, delivered one of the night's great performances, a potent, stripped-down acoustic set that included "Copperhead Road," "Jerusalem" and "The Revolution Starts ... Now," the title track off his new album.
Of course, it wouldn't be like Earle to stick to just one cause.
"Wars are tricky, a tricky thing," Earle said as he introduced the song "Rich Man's War." "For the people who start wars it's easy for them to do because they're not going and their kids aren't going. ... Your kids are gonna go. My kids are 17 and 22, and I think we need to have this conversation."
Lewis, 68, galvanized fans as he banged out three of his classic piano rock numbers. Hundreds jumped to their feet and lived up to Lewis' proclamation that there's "A Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" before the rock legend finished with his signature number, "Great Balls of Fire."
Matthews - a Seattleite and crowd favorite - performed a solo acoustic set that included material from his solo album, "Some Devil," and covers of Bob Dylan's "Oh, Sister" and the spiritual "When I Lay My Burdens Down," the latter recorded for a forthcoming movie.
Mellencamp's singalong finale "Pink Houses" brought down the house.
Blue Merle stood out among such fresh faces as Kitty Jerry, Kate Voegele and Tegan and Sara. The Nashville band's melodic brand of alt-country is in the vain of Wilco and Nickel Creek. Its debut, "October Fires," hits stores early next year.
Nelson had yet to begin his headlining set as the deadline for this story approached, though he had made appearances early on, including a cameo with Trick Pony.
Earlier in the day, a panel that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Edmonds), local farmers and several of the day's performers shared stories and addressed the Farm Aid cause. Matthews, a member of Farm Aid's board of directors, briefly explained part of the rationale for choosing Auburn.
"This area is such an inspiration," Matthews said, "because it's such a socially conscious part of the country."
Trick Pony singer-guitarist Heidi Newfield recalled how her family and neighbors lived off her grandfather's farm in California. "Nobody went hungry that we knew," she said. "I never bought a piece of meat from a grocery store because we hunted and we fished.
"It's about a way of life. The family farmer is the last of a dying breed. I can't express how deeply this touches me and touches us."
Rocker Dave Matthews, left,
shows his support for Farm Aid,
joining Willie Nelson, Neil Young
and John Mellencamp
in the concert lineup.
Farm Aid Moves West
Matthews, Young, Nelson and Mellencamp ready for 2004 benefit
Source: Rolling Stone (US)
Author: Andrew Dansby
Published: August 2, 2004
Copyright: 2004 Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P
Farm Aid organizers Dave Matthews, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp will hold the annual concert in Auburn, Washington, just outside Seattle, this September.
Farm Aid, in its nineteenth year, is typically held in the Midwest, but Washington is the home to more than 30,000 of the family farms that the event seeks to help with its proceeds. This year's Farm Aid will take place on September 18th at the White River Amphitheater, located on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation in Auburn.
"It's a great time for Farm Aid to head to the West Coast," Nelson, president of Farm Aid, said. "We're proud to honor their contributions and recognize the northwest region as a leader in building family farm systems."
"Seattle is a perfect example of how a city might embrace the philosophy of healthy food, from the farm to the table," Matthews said. "This year, as always, we will highlight the many dangers we face if corporate, profit-driven farming is allowed to continue its hostile takeover of the world's food production. But we would also like to celebrate a growing awareness and the solutions that are possible. That's why we're bringing Farm Aid to Seattle."
The four Farm Aid board members -- Young, Nelson and Mellencamp started the organization and annual concert in 1985; Matthews joined the board in 2001 -- will make their annual appearances at the event. Additional performers will be announced later this summer. Tickets go on sale August 7th through Ticketmaster or the White River Amphitheater box office.
Farm Aid To Head West to Washington State
Source: Associated Press
Published: August 2, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Associated Press
Auburn, Wash. - For the first time, Farm Aid will be doing its musical fund raising west of the Rockies this year, holding its annual concert at the White River Amphitheater. Farm Aid 2004, featuring Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and others, will be held Sept. 18 in Auburn.
"The farthest west we've ever been is Nebraska," said Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar. "We have a chance to reach a whole new audience and a whole new group of people."
Nelson, Young and Mellencamp started Farm Aid in 1985, in response to small farmers losing their land because of debt. The first concert took place in Champaign, Ill. The organization has raised $26 million to promote the preservation of family farms and locally controlled, sustainable agriculture.
The group gives grants to farm organizations, churches and service agencies for emergency needs, hot lines, nonprofit legal assistance, education and organizational development.
Mugar said Matthews' ties to Seattle, a place he has lived with his wife, Ashley, figured into the site selection. She also pointed out that 85 percent of Washington farms are family-operated and connected to informed consumers in the area.
"Seattle is a perfect example of how a city might embrace the philosophy of healthy food, from the farm to the table," Matthews said in a statement. "The success of Seattle's consumer awareness to demand quality food from farmers who care should inspire us all."
In 2003, Farm Aid made grants totaling $250,000 to 42 family-farm groups in 26 states. Over time, the organization has changed from an emergency organization for individual farmers to one that deals with broader issues.
"It's the exact same issue, but through a different lens," said Mugar. "It's about preventing the small farm from going to the auction block. And that means keeping fresh food available locally."
Farm Aid and local family-farm organizations will hold a series of events at Pike Place Market in Seattle during the 10 days leading up to the concert.
Tickets for Farm Aid 2004 go on sale at noon Saturday. Prices range from $30 to $95.
Farm Aid 2003: Columbus,
'Soundstage' Reaps Farm Aid
PBS show to present two-hour version of annual benefit.
Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Author: Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News
Published: November 27, 2003
Copyright: 2003 Denver Publishing Co.
Benefit concerts (Live Aid, Concert For Bangladesh, Concert for Kampuchea, No Nukes) largely come and go, regardless of whether the problems they're addressing actually go away or not.
But two concerts - not coincidentally, both powered by Neil Young - keep going year after year. Every October you'll always find Young headlining the Bridge Benefit Concert, and every September you'll find him headlining Farm Aid.
Now deep in its second decade, Farm Aid joins for the first time with PBS stations for a special edition of the revived, acclaimed Soundstage series. Farm Aid has long been shown on Country Music Television live as it happens, but few cable systems in Denver carry it. PBS will show an edited, two-hour version of it tonight in superb sound, and fans will be able to buy the DVD or VHS copy as well.
Part of the price Farm Aid has paid for its longevity is its transformation to a sort of a ho-hum event. What launched as a daylong stadium show with superstars falling all over each other to appear has leveled off into an amphitheatre-sized show with the same acts returning year after year.
This year longtime Farm Aid supporter Dave Matthews joins Young, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp as one of the board members responsible for bringing the show together.
And Matthews' was the most interesting and daring set of the day - with just an acoustic guitar, he blended solo and Dave Matthews Bands tunes, depending on just his voice and the songs to carry the day.
Farm Aid has always been a weird hybrid of country and rock, the former represented this year by disposable sets from Brooks & Dunn and Trick Pony, the latter filled out by Sheryl Crow and Hootie & the Blowfish.
The special also sticks with the obvious. Billy Bob Thornton gets airtime (and shows he's not a bad singer), but Daniel Lanois' set is nowhere to be found.
Its repetition year after year has made Farm Aid predictable. There, again, is Mellencamp singing Pink Houses. There, again, is Young doing Hey Hey My My.
One yearns for the unpredictability of the first Farm Aid: Don Henley's one-and-only-time performance of his aching A Month of Sundays, Joni Mitchell's lilting, piano-only version of Dog Eat Dog, a stone-cold (and criminally overlooked) classic.
Still, it's a rollicking two hours with the best saved for last. Even if he's done Hey Hey My My a million times, Young and Crazy Horse tear it up once again, with Young scribbling his frantic guitar solos with abandon.
And fans who missed Young's Greendale tour and are curious what the hubbub was about get a long version of Be the Rain, the final and best song on that album (the actors and actresses are missing, replaced with swirling dancers in American Indian garb).
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