Young’s successful 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. A line from the acoustic version of the song, « it’s better to burn out than to fade away, » became infamous after being quoted in Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Homegrown Harvest : Edition en anglais PDF song « Hey, Hey, My, My » and the title phrase of the album, « rust never sleeps » on which it was featured sprang from Young’s encounters with Devo and in particular Mark Mothersbaugh. Some reviewers viewed Young’s career as skidding after the release of American Stars ‘N Bars and Comes a Time.
With the explosion of punk in 1977, some punks felt that Young and his contemporaries were becoming obsolete. Young worried that they were right. As Young’s commercial popularity waned in the 1980s, an underground rock movement began to embrace the artist. At a time when glam metal and bubblegum pop saturated commercial airwaves, disaffected bands used Young as a prime example of the perfect blend of noise and melody, braggadocio and vulnerability, folk and hard rock. Kurt Cobain’s suicide note ended with the same line, shaking Young and inadvertently cementing his place as the so-called « Godfather of Grunge ». It’s better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out.
If he was talking about burning out like Sid Vicious, forget it. I don’t appreciate the worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or dead John Wayne. The rock’n’roll spirit is not survival. Of course the people who play rock’n’roll should survive.
But the essence of the rock’n’roll spirit to me, is that it’s better to burn out really bright than to sort of decay off into infinity. Rock’n’roll doesn’t look that far ahead. The song also influenced Britpop artists. Oasis covered the song on their 2000 world tour, including it on their live album and DVD Familiar to Millions. The song still appears frequently on FM radio today, most often on « classic rock » stations. Young performs the song at nearly every concert in one form or another. It is included on his Greatest Hits.
The song is the title theme of Dennis Hopper’s movie Out of the Blue. The One I Love », is actually a rewriting on Neil Young’s « Hey Hey, My My ». Courtney Love, singer for Hole and Cobain’s widow, alludes both to this song and her husband’s suicide note in the song « Reasons To Be Beautiful » from the album Celebrity Skin. In « Reasons To Be Beautiful, » she changes the verse to « It’s better to rise than fade away. Metalcore band Killswitch Engage have quoted the line in their song « New Awakening ». The lyrics of the song, in particular « out of the blue and into the black », are an epigraph and also a prominent feature in Stephen King’s It. Oh Yes, It’s Devo: An Interview with Jerry Casale Brian L.