Rockin' in the Free World

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"Rockin' in the Free World"
Rockin in the Free World by Neil Young
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, California, March 10, 1989
Genre Hard rock, heartland rock
Length Acoustic version: 3:38
Electric version: 4:40
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) Neil Young
Niko Bolas

"Rockin' in the Free World" is a song by Neil Young,[1] released on his 1989 album Freedom.[2] 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 song was first performed live on February 21, 1989 in Seattle with Young's band The Restless.[3]

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.[4] However Khomeini's death occurred months after the first live performance of the song.

The lyrics criticize the George H. W. Bush administration,[5] 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." [3] 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'. The song was used in Donald Trump's announcement that he will run as a Republican candidate for the 2016 presidency.[6] Young, a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders, said that Trump's use of "Rockin' in the Free World" was not authorized.[7]

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 rated number 216 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is included on Young's Greatest Hits (2004) release.

The song is featured as a playable track in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.

Canadian interviewer Nardwuar the Human Serviette closes his interviews by telling the subject, "Keep on rockin' in the free world," followed by saying, "Doot doola doot doo..." and waiting for them to complete it with "Doot doo!". During a press conference with Mikhail Gorbachev in Vancouver on March 23rd, 1993, the first thing Nardwuar said to him was "Keep on rockin' in the free world" translated into Russian, before asking, "And I was wondering, of all the political figures that Dr. Gorbachev has encountered, who has the largest pants?" This earned him a questioning and ejection by an RCMP officer.[8]


  • German singer-songwriter Gerhard Gundermann, who lived in communist East Germany at the time Young released the song, recorded "Alle oder keiner" ("Everyone or no-one") a version of the song with new lyrics, on his 1991 album Einsame Spitze.
  • The Alarm recorded a version of the song on their album Raw and a Welsh Language version on their album Tân.


  1. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-105-4. 
  2. ^ Buckley, 1206
  3. ^ a b "History and Commentary on "Rockin' In The Free World" lyrics by Neil Young". 
  4. ^ McDonough, J. (2002). Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. New York, Random House.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Neil Young to Donald Trump: Don't Rock in My Free World". Mother Jones. 16 Jun 2015. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Concert Review: Air Canada Centre, Toronto - Sept. 11, 2011". 2011-09-11. Retrieved 2011-09-11. 
  10. ^ "Pearl Jam and Neil Young's Suprise Duet". 2011-09-11. Archived from the original on 2012-10-01. Retrieved 2015-11-15.