From the Weekend Wall Street Journal’s latest Playlist feature:
At Sea With Neil Young
A long-distance swimmer finds a 1970s anthem to help get her from Havana to Miami
In the years before my 2013 swim from Havana to Miami, I memorized the music and lyrics to dozens of classic rock songs. The songs weren’t for distraction but to help sustain my pace and keep my mind from wandering. In the darkest hours, I turned to Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” from 1972 . . .
By 3 a.m., my mind was at its bleakest moment. I had been swimming in pitch darkness for six hours. That’s when I began singing in my head “Needle,” from Neil’s “Harvest” album. It has a surfy, steady rhythm that helped me sustain my 52 strokes per minute. I also related to Neil’s voice, which had the right level of vulnerability and pain.
Diana Nyad’s final strokes: “’Needle’ took over my brain, and singing it 1,000 times produced a tremendous high. By the end, I could see Neil’s face so clearly. Then the sun came up, and I was on to another song.”
And to Miami . . .