Here and there you notice little oddities, such as his habit of referring to his sons Zeke and Ben as Zeke Young and Ben Young, not once but often; and the occasional arresting anecdote, such as the fact that when he was young his parents were friends with the great Canadian writer Robertson Davies, visiting him every Christmas and playing charades.
Throughout these 497 pages, Young switches back and forth through time as the mood takes him and as memories re-occur. For all the occasional artlessness – the guileless use of exclamation marks, the remarkable frequency with which he complains about the inferior sound quality of MP3s and why his own audio format, Pono (Hawaiian for "righteous and good"), is what the world needs – this is a revealing and honest work, written from the heart and not through the medium of some "sweaty hack" (his words) biographer.
He doesn't, for example, conceal his flaws. Success has changed him, and his high standards mean he has become hard to work for or with. He insists he has been trying to reconnect with his old values, the days when he was empathetic towards others. "How," he wonders, "do I avoid being short with those I love and respect?" It's a good question.
The 68 bite-sized chapters in Waging Heavy Peace are crowded with incident and people, though you sometimes long for Young to dwell on them longer. Through his eyes we glimpse two key 1969 festivals – first Woodstock, then the infamous Altamont gathering that, in the words of writer Robert Christgau, "provided such a complex metaphor" for the way the peace-and-love hippie era ended. We glimpse, too, Charlie Manson, "quite good" as a singer-songwriter, whom Young recommended to the Reprise record label not long before Manson and his followers butchered Sharon Tate and several other people.
Young is vivid about his early days, when he was just another struggling Canadian musician trying to make it, and about his first big group, Buffalo Springfield. He writes with candour about his health problems. Elsewhere, there's a passage in which he describes his sadness on finding a box of all of his CDs ("my life's work") on the floor of a store in Hawaii. But this is not a conventional music autobiography.
To borrow from Bob Dylan, Young has nothing but affection for the folk who sail with him; he writes with a genuine sense of loss about the lifelong cohorts (such as Ben Keith, David Briggs and guitarist Danny Whitten) who are no longer around. He tells us something of the way in which some of his best-known songs came into being, from Like A Hurricane, Will To Love and Cinnamon Girl to Ohio, his reaction to the killings of four Kent State University students by Nixon's National Guard in 1970.
Young accepts that not everyone might like the book's style or length, observing at one point: "There is a lot here to cover, and I have never done this before. Also, I am not interested in form for form's sake. So if you are having trouble reading this, give it to someone else." The publishers must have raised an eyebrow. They ought to have insisted on an index as well.
Young, who turns 67 on November 12, is currently in a fertile period. Aside from music, he continues to develop his electric car project, Lincvolt and his aforementioned Pono, his means of "saving the sound of music and rescuing an art form", no less.
Unpredictable, digressive and curiously vulnerable, the book reflects Young's long musical career.