Rockin' in the Free World

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"Rockin' in the Free World"
Rockin in the Free World single cover.jpg
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, folk rock
Length Acoustic version: 3:38
Electric version: 4:40
Label Reprise
Songwriter(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) Neil Young
Niko Bolas
Music video
Rockin' in the Free World (2012) on YouTube

"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, similarly 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 is now considered one of Neil Young's best songs. The song was ranked 216 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


The song was first performed live on February 21, 1989 in Seattle with Young's band The Restless.[3]

In Jimmy McDonough's book Shakey, McDonough claims the song originated in one of Young's tours in the late 1980s. Young and Frank "Poncho" Sampedro purportedly 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, while 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'.[citation needed]

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 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] Sanders has since used the song at his own political rallies.

The contention was later determined to be a licensing issue, and has since been resolved and Donald Trump's campaign can use the song. Neil Young explained to RollingStone that he had no issue with them using the song. [8]