The final verse is probably the most interesting.Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here!
This summarizes the '60s hippie rebellion. Young and his peers were reacting to the perceived dreariness of their parents' culture, which they also blamed for the Vietnam War. They didn't want any part in that version of the American Dream. This is also where the song becomes interesting as a landmark of its era.
Only two months earlier, Canned Heat had released "Going Up The Country
." Shortly before that, the first issue of the Whole Earth Catalog
was published. Both these items, along with "Here We Are In The Years," expressed an increasingly popular (counter)cultural shift going on at the time.
The hippie movement had mostly started in urban areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Berkley. By the late '60s, however, it began to move into the country. The people felt that they'd lost a vital connection to the land and sought to change that. They imagined changing the world would be easier out there.
Young was very much part of that whole scene, but where he was different from most of the others in the counterculture was that those "return to the land" sentiments never died for him. After the main thrust of the hippie movement petered out in late 1969 and people returned to their normal lives, Young kept going. Many years later, in the song "Big Time" (1996), he was still singing:I'm still living the dream we had
For me it's not over
Young has been a committed environmentalist throughout his life. He's also preferred country life over the city. He was living on his ranch in 1974 when he met wife Pegi, the woman who inspired "Unknown Legend
" and many other Young tunes.
Whereas "Here We Are In The Years" is in some ways a footnote in one of the most illustrious careers in popular music history, it reveals quite a lot about its writer, and about the time he lived in.
Young has continued to play "Here We Are In The Years" regularly over the many decades since its release.