Rockin' in the Free World
|"Rockin' in the Free World"|
|Single by Neil Young|
|from the album Freedom|
|B-side||"Rockin' in the Free World"|
|Released||November 14, 1989|
|Format||45 RPM Record|
|Recorded||The Barn, Redwood Digital, Woodside CA, March 10, 1989|
|Genre||Hard rock, Heartland rock|
|Length||Acoustic version: 3:38
Electric Version: 4:40
"Rockin' in the Free World" is a song by Neil Young, released on his 1989 album Freedom. Two versions of the song were released, similar to the song "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" of Young's Rust Never Sleeps album, one of which is performed with a predominantly acoustic arrangement, and the other with a predominantly electric arrangement.
The book Shakey by Jimmy McDonough claims the song originated, when Young was on tour in the late 1980s. He and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro saw newspaper photos of the Ayatollah Khomeini's body being carried to his grave as mourners were burning American flags in the street. Sampedro commented, "Whatever we do, we shouldn't go near the Mideast. It's probably better we just keep on rockin' in the free world." Young asked if Sampedro intended to use this idea as the basis of a song and when Sampedro said no, Young said that he would do so instead. However Khomeini's death occurred months after the first live performance of the song.
The lyrics criticize the George H. W. Bush administration, then in its first month, and the social problems of contemporary American life, directly referencing Bush's famous "thousand points of light" remark from his 1989 inaugural address and his 1988 presidential campaign promise for America to become a "kinder, gentler nation."  Despite this, the song became the de facto anthem of the collapse of communism, because of its repeated chorus of 'Keep on Rockin' in the Free World'.
An edited version of the song accompanies the end credits of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. In the film, the phrase "That's one more kid that’ll never go to school / Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool," which in the song references the second verse's abandoned child, is used in reference to a young US soldier killed in Iraq.
The song is featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.
- German singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann, who lived in communist East Germany at the time Young released "Rockin' in the Free World", recorded "Alle oder keiner" ("Everyone or no-one") a version of the song with new lyrics, on his 1991 album Einsame Spitze.
- Pearl Jam regularly covers this song in concert, playing it along with "Yellow Ledbetter" as the closer on election years. The band played the song as part of the 1992 MTV Unplugged performance and also alongside Young at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. The band played the song at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto as part of their 20th anniversary tour. Neil Young joined them onstage to play with the band.
- The Alarm recorded a version of the song on their album Raw and a Welsh Language version on their album Tân.
- Hayseed Dixie included a version on the 2005 album A Hot Piece of Grass.
- Young led a performance, playing acoustic guitar, and the end of the Canada version of the Live 8 concert.
- G3, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen has played it on tour.
- Bon Jovi performed this song live in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 1, 1995. The performance was recorded in their live album One Wild Night Live 1985–2001.
- Chairman Wao & The People's Band performed the song live in 2012 at Diss, Norfolk. A bootlegged recording exists.
- Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Barry Goldberg (aka The Rides) included a version on the 2013 album "Can't Get Enough".
- Buckley, 1206
- "History and Commentary on "Rockin' In The Free World" lyrics by Neil Young".
- McDonough, J. (2002). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. New York, Random House.
- "Concert Review: Air Canada Centre, Toronto - Sept. 11, 2011". canoe.ca. 2011-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
- "Pearl Jam and Neil Young's Suprise Duet". alternativeaddiction.com. 2011-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-11.
- Video on YouTube