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Neil Young

Neil Percival Young OM (born November 12, 1945, Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and film director from Omemee, Ontario.

His work is characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and an instantly recognizable nasal tenor (and frequently alto) singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments—including piano and harmonica—his style of hammer-on acoustic guitar and often idiosyncratic soloing on electric guitar are the lynchpins of a sometimes ragged, sometimes polished, yet consistently evocative sound. Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues, and electronica throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into either of two distinct styles: folk-esque acoustic rock (as heard in songs such as "Heart of Gold" (sample (help·info)), "Harvest Moon" and "Old Man") and electric-charged hard rock (in songs like "Cinnamon Girl", "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"). In more recent years, Young has started to adopt elements from newer styles of music, such as industrial, alternative country and grunge, the latter of which was profoundly influenced by his own style of playing, often bringing him the title of "the godfather of grunge".

Young has directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), and Greendale (2003).

He is also an outspoken advocate for environmental issues and small farmers, having co-founded the benefit concert Farm Aid, and in 1986 helped found The Bridge School, and its annual supporting Bridge School Benefit concerts, together with his wife Pegi.


Early years

Neil Young was born in Toronto to sportswriter and novelist Scott Young and Rassy Ragland Young, who had moved to Toronto from their family home of Manitoba to pursue a sport journalism career. Neil spent his early years in the small country town of Omemee, in southern Ontario. A bout of polio at the age of 6 left him with a weakened left side, and he still walks with a slight limp. He moved to New Smyrna Beach, Florida to recover for a year; his mother later moved there permanently. His parents divorced when Young was 12, and he moved with his mother back to the family home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where his music career began.

When Neil Young arrived in Winnipeg from Ontario, he already knew what it was like to be uprooted, since his family had gone wherever his father's career in journalism had taken him. But after the break-up of his parents' marriage, Neil and his mother Rassy settled into the working class suburb of Fort Rouge where the shy, dry-humoured youth enrolled at Earl Grey Junior High School. It was there that he met Ken Koblun, later to join him in the Squires, and there that he formed his first band the Jades.

While attending Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, he played in several instrumental rock bands. He also worked folk clubs in Winnipeg, where he first met Joni Mitchell. Young's first stable band was called the Squires, and they had a local hit called "The Sultan." Young dropped out of high school and also played in Fort William, where they recorded a series of demos produced by a local producer named Ray Dee, whom Young called, "...the original Briggs." While in Thunder Bay, Young first encountered Stephen Stills. In the 2006 film Heart of Gold Young relates how he used to spend time as a teenager at Falcon Lake, Manitoba where he would endlessly plug coins into the jukebox to hear Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds."

In 1965 Young toured Canada as a solo artist. In 1966, he joined Rick James-fronted Mynah Birds. The band managed to secure a record deal with the Motown label. Unfortunately, As their first album was being recorded James was arrested for being AWOL from the army. After the Mynah Birds disbanded, Young and bass player Bruce Palmer relocated to Los Angeles.

Buffalo Springfield

Once they reached Los Angeles, Young and Palmer met up with Steven Stills, Richie Furay, and Dewey Martin to form Buffalo Springfield. A mixture of folk, country, psychedelia, and rock lent a hard edge by the twin lead guitars of Stills and Young made Buffalo Springfield a critical success, and their first record Buffalo Springfield (1967) sold well after Stills' topical song "For What It's Worth" became a hit - aided by Young's melodic harmonics played on electric guitar.

Distrust of their management and the arrest and deportation of Palmer exacerbated already strained relations among group members and led to Buffalo Springfield's demise. A second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, was released in late 1967, but two of Young’s three contributions were actually solo tracks recorded apart from the rest of the group.

In many ways, these three songs on Buffalo Springfield Again are harbingers of much of Young's later work in that, although they all share deeply personal, almost idiosyncratic lyrics, they also present three very different musical approaches to the arrangement of what is essentially an original folk song. "Mr Soul," the only Young song of the three that all five members of the group perform together. In contrast, "Broken Arrow" was confessional folk rock of a kind that would characterize much of the music that emerged from the singer-songwriter movement. Young’s experimental production intersperses each verse with snippets of sound from other sources, including opening the song with a sound bite of Dewey Martin singing "Mr. Soul" and closing it with the thumping of a heartbeat. "Expecting to Fly" was a lushly produced ballad featuring a string arrangement that Young's co-producer for the track, Jack Nitzsche, would dub "symphonic pop."

In May 1968, the band split up for good, but in order to fulfill a contractual obligation, a final album, Last Time Around, was recorded, primarily from recordings made earlier that year. Young contributed the songs "On the Way Home" and "I Am a Child", singing lead on the latter.

Breakthrough as a solo artist

After the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records, home of his colleague and friend Joni Mitchell, with whom he shared a manager, Elliot Roberts. Young and Nitzsche immediately began work on Young's first solo record, Neil Young (November 1968), which received mixed reviews. In a 1970 interview, Young deprecated the album as being "overdubbed rather than played," and the quest for music that expresses the spontaneity of the moment has long been a feature of his career. Nevertheless, the album contains some tunes that remain a staple of his live shows, most notably "The Loner."

For his next album, Young recruited three musicians from a band called The Rockets: Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass guitar, and Ralph Molina on drums. These three took the name Crazy Horse (after the historical figure of the same name), and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (May 1969), is credited to "Neil Young with Crazy Horse." Recorded in just two weeks, the album opens with one of Young's most familiar songs, "Cinnamon Girl," and is dominated by two more, "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River," that feature lengthy jams showcasing Young's idiosyncratic guitar soloing accompanied sympathetically by Crazy Horse. Young reportedly wrote both songs on the same day, while nursing a high fever of 103°F (39.5°C) in bed.

Shortly after the release of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Young reunited with Stephen Stills by joining Crosby, Stills, & Nash, who had already released one album as a trio. Young was originally offered a position as a sideman, but instead opted for full membership, and the group was renamed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The quartet debuted in Chicago on August 16, 1969, and later performed at the famous Woodstock Festival, during which Young skipped the acoustic set and refused to be filmed during the electric set, even telling the cameramen: "One of you fuckin' guys comes near me and I'm gonna fuckin' hit you with my guitar". During the making of their first album, Déjà Vu, the musicians frequently argued, particularly Young and Stills, who both fought for control.

"Ohio" was written following the Kent State massacre on May 4, 1970, and was a staple of anti-war rallies in the 1970s. The song was quickly recorded by CSNY and immediately released as a single, even though CSNY's "Teach Your Children" was still climbing the singles charts. Many believe that the release "Ohio" as a single cut into the sales of "Teach Your Children" and prevented that song from reaching the top ten. In the late 1970s and for much of the 1980s, Young refrained from performing "Ohio" live, as he considered the song to be dated. In the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, however, Young revived the song in concert, often dedicating it to the Chinese students who were killed in the massacre. Interestingly, Crosby, Stills & Nash, as a trio, also returned the song to their live repertoire around the same time, even though Young had provided the lead vocals on the original recording.

Also that year, Young released his third solo album, After the Gold Rush (1970), which featured, among others, a young Nils Lofgren, Stephen Stills, and CSNY bassist Greg Reeves. Young also recorded some tracks with Crazy Horse, but dismissed them early in the sessions. Aided by his newfound fame with CSNY, the album was a commercial breakthrough for Young and contains some of his best known work. Notable tracks include the title track, with dream-like lyrics that run a gamut of subjects from drugs and interpersonal relationships to environmental concerns, as well as Young’s controversial and acerbic condemnation of racism in "Southern Man," which, along with a later song entitled "Alabama," later prompted Lynyrd Skynyrd to decry Young by name in the lyrics to "Sweet Home Alabama."

With CSNY splitting up and Crazy Horse having signed their own record deal, Young began the year 1971 with a solo tour entitled "Journey Through the Past." Later, he recruited a new group of country-music session musicians, whom he christened The Stray Gators, to record much of the new material that had been premiered on tour for the album Harvest (1972). Harvest was a massive hit (especially with the country-music crowd) and "Heart of Gold" became a US number one single. Another notable song was "The Needle and the Damage Done," a lament for talented artists who died because of heroin addiction.

The album's success, however, caught Young off guard, and his first instinct was to back away from stardom. In the handwritten liner notes to the Decade compilation, Young described 'Heart of Gold' as the song that "put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there."

On September 8th 1972, the Academy Award-nominated actress Carrie Snodgress, with whom he had been living, gave birth to Neil Young's first child. The boy, Zeke, would later be diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The Ditch Trilogy

Although a new tour had been planned to follow up on the success of Harvest, it became apparent during rehearsals that Danny Whitten could not function due to drug abuse. On November 18, 1972, shortly after he was fired from the tour preparations, Whitten was found dead of an overdose. Young described the incident to Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe in 1975, " were rehearsing with him and he just couldn't cut it. He couldn't remember anything. He was too out of it. Too far gone. I had to tell him to go back to L.A. 'It's not happening, man. You're not together enough.' He just said, 'I've got nowhere else to go, man. How am I gonna tell my friends?' And he split. That night the coroner called me from L.A. and told me he'd ODed. That blew my mind. Fucking blew my mind. I loved Danny. I felt responsible. And from there, I had to go right out on this huge tour of huge arenas. I was very nervous and . . . insecure."

The album made in the aftermath of this incident, Time Fades Away (1973), has often been described by Young as "my least favorite record," and it is, in fact, one of only two of Young’s early recordings that has yet to be re-released on CD (The other being the soundtrack album Journey Through the Past). The album was recorded live over a tour where Neil struggled with his voice and called David Crosby and Graham Nash to help perform the music. The tour was also notable as Linda Ronstadt began touring as the opening act for the Time Fades Away tour. Time Fades Away occupies a unique position in Young’s discography as the first of three albums known collectively as the "Ditch Trilogy," and has also been referred to as the "Doom Trilogy" by some writers.

In the second half of 1973, Young formed The Santa Monica Flyers, with Crazy Horse's rhythm section augmented by Nils Lofgren on guitar. Deeply affected by the drug-induced deaths of Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Young recorded Tonight's the Night. The album's dark tone and rawness caused Reprise to delay the release until two years later and only after being pressured by Young to do so. The album received mixed reviews at the time, but is now regarded by some as a precursor to punk rock. In Young's own opinion, it was the closest he ever came to art.

While his record company delayed the release of Tonight's the Night, Young recorded On the Beach (1974), which dealt with themes such as the downside of fame and the Californian lifestyle. Like Time Fades Away and Tonight's the Night, it sold poorly but would eventually become a critical favorite, presenting some of Young's most original work. In a review of the 2003 re-release on CD of On the Beach Derek Svennungsen described the music as "mesmerizing, harrowing, lucid, and bleary," a characterization that many would say is an apt description of the entire Ditch Trilogy.

Zuma and beyond

After completing On the Beach, Young reunited with Harvest producer Elliot Mazer to record another acoustic album, Homegrown. Most the songs were written after Young's breakup with Snodgress, and thus the tone of the album was somewhat dark. Though the album was very near completion, Young decided to drop the album and release Tonight's the Night instead, at the suggestion of The Band bassist Rick Danko. Young further explained his move by saying: "It was a little too personal... it scared me".

Young reformed Crazy Horse with Frank Sampedro on guitar as his backup band for Zuma (1975). Many of the songs are overtly concerned with failed relationships, and even the epic "Cortez the Killer," outwardly a retelling of the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the viewpoint of the Aztecs, can be seen as an allegory of love lost—something that didn’t save it, however, from being banned in Franco's Spain.

The following year, Young reunited with Stephen Stills for the album Long May You Run (1976), credited to The Stills-Young Band; the follow-up tour was ended midway through by Young, who sent Stills a telegram that read: "Funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach, Neil."

In 1976, Young performed with The Band, Joni Mitchell, and other rock musicians in the high profile all-star concert The Last Waltz. The release of Martin Scorsese's movie of the concert was delayed while Scorsese unwillingly re-edited it to deemphasize the lump of cocaine that was clearly visible hanging from Young's nose during his performance of "Helpless." Young later said, "I'm not proud of that," according to one of his biographers.

American Stars 'N Bars (1977) contained two songs originally recorded for Homegrown album, "Homegrown" and "Star of Bethelehem," as well as newer material. Performers included Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Young protégé Nicolette Larson along with Crazy Horse. Also in 1977, Young released Decade: a personally selected career summary of material spanning every aspect of his various interests and affiliations, including a handful of unreleased songs. Comes a Time (1978) also featured Nicolette Larson and Crazy Horse and became Young's most commercially accessible album in quite some time, marked by a return to his folk roots.

Young next set out on the lengthy "Rust Never Sleeps" tour, in which each concert was divided into a solo acoustic set and an electric set with Crazy Horse. Much of the electric set was later seen as a response to punk rock's burgeoning popularity. "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" compared the changing public perception of Johnny Rotten with that of the recently deceased Elvis Presley, who himself had once been disparaged as a dangerous influence only to later become an icon. Rotten, meanwhile, returned the favour by playing one of Young's records on a London radio show. The accompanying albums Rust Never Sleeps (new material, culled from live recordings, but featuring studio overdubs) and Live Rust (a mixture of old and new, and a genuine concert recording) captured the two sides of the concerts, with solo acoustic songs on side A, and fierce, uptempo, electric songs on side B. A movie version of the concerts, also called Rust Never Sleeps (1979), was directed by Young under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey.

Young was suddenly hip again, and the readers and critics of Rolling Stone voted him Artist Of The Year for 1979 (along with The Who), selected Rust Never Sleeps as Album Of The Year, and voted him Male Vocalist Of The Year as well.

1980s - experimental years

The 1980s were a lean time for Young both critically and commercially. After providing the incidental music to a biopic of Hunter S. Thompson entitled Where the Buffalo Roam, he recorded Hawks & Doves (1980), a folk/country record. Re-ac-tor (1981), once again with Crazy Horse, was a façade of distortion and feedback obscuring a relatively weak selection of songs, but his strangest record of the decade came with Trans (1982). Recorded almost entirely with vocoders, synthesizers, and other devices that modify instruments and vocals with electronic effects, it is sometimes considered an experiment to find technology that would become a means to communicate for Young’s son (with his wife Pegi), Ben, who has severe cerebral palsy and cannot speak. Many fans were baffled by the radical forms of this album and rockabilly-styled Everybody's Rockin' (1983), and record company head David Geffen even sued Young for making "unrepresentative" music - i.e. music that did not sound like Neil Young. Young later stated that he would have preferred to release the songs featuring the synclavier and vocoder as an EP, and that their inclusion with the Hawaiian-themed rockabilly was a mistake.

In 1983, Young worked with British video director Tim Pope, making two videos - "Wonderin'" and "Cry, Cry, Cry."

In 1985, he reunited with Crosby, Stills and Nash at Live Aid at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium. The two songs that they played, "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom," were the first songs they had played as a quartet in front of a paying audience since 1974.

Old Ways (1985) saw a return to country music, recorded with a group of friends and session musicians. Landing on Water (1986) is entertaining for the blending of synthesizers and other instruments related to the 80's into Young’s own style, with lyrics that take pot shots at some favourite targets, including CSN in "Hippie Dream," with a chorus that goes: "But the wooden ships/Were just a hippie dream," and David Geffen in "Drifter," with the line: "Don’t try to tell me what I gotta do to fit." The resumption of his partnership with Crazy Horse on Life (1987) fulfilled his contract with Geffen, and Young was finally able to switch labels.

Signing with Warner Brothers and returning to Reprise Records, Young produced This Note's For You (1988) with a new band, The Bluenotes, whose name rights were owned by musician Harold Melvin. The addition of a brass section provided a new jazzier sound and the title track became his first hit single of the decade. Accompanied by a witty video which parodied corporate rock, the pretensions of advertising and Michael Jackson in particular, the song was initially banned by MTV (although the Canadian music channel, MuchMusic ran it immediately) before being put into heavy rotation and finally given the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video of the Year for 1989. After Melvin sued over the use of the Bluenotes name, Young renamed his back-up group "Ten Men Workin'" for the balance of the concert tour.

Young also contributed to that year's CSNY reunion American Dream (1988) and CSNY played a few benefit concerts. Young, however, refused to book a full tour with CSN and the foursome would not embark upon a nationwide tour until 2000.

1990s - return to country-rock roots

Freedom completed the return to form, a mixture of acoustic and electric rock dealing with the state of the US and the world in 1989, alongside a set of love songs and a version of the standard "On Broadway." "Rockin' in the Free World", two versions of which bookended the album, again caught the mood. Some say it became a de facto anthem during the fall of the Berlin Wall, a few months after the record's release. However, most Germans don't remember the song being related to the reunification, understandably so, since the lyrics are not about political repression. Like Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.", the anthemic use of this song was based on largely ignoring the verses, which evoke social problems and implicitly criticize American government policies. By 1990, grunge music was beginning to make its first inroads in the charts and many of its prime movers, including Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, cited Young as a major influence.

Using a barn on his Northern California ranch as a studio, he rapidly recorded the aptly titled Ragged Glory with Crazy Horse, whose guitar riffs and feedback driven sound showed his new admirers that he could still cut it. Young then headed back out on the road with LA punk band Social Distortion and alternative rock elder statesmen Sonic Youth as support, much to the consternation of many of his old fans. Yet the influence of Sonic Youth could be clearly heard on the accompanying home video and live album, Weld, which also included a bonus CD entitled Arc, a single 35-minute-long collage of feedback and guitar noise that Neil included, evidently at the suggestion of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. Arc was later sold separately.

Young's next move was another return to country music. Harvest Moon (1992) was the long awaited sequel to Harvest and reunited him with some of the musicians from that session, as well as singers Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. The title track was a minor hit and the record was reviewed and sold equally well, containing songs such as "From Hank to Hendrix" and "Unknown Legend", a tribute to his wife. His resurgent popularity saw him booked on MTV Unplugged in 1993. In 1992 he accompanied fellow Winnipegger Randy Bachman on "Prairie Town," a song that recounts their days in the Winnipeg music scene of the 1960s. That year, he contributed music to the soundtrack of the Jonathan Demme movie Philadelphia, and his song "Philadelphia" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song, losing out to Bruce Springsteen's contribution to the same film. A summer tour covering both Europe and North America with Booker T. and the MGs (with whom he played two songs at a 1992 Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden) was widely praised as a triumph. On a few of these dates, the show ended with a rendition of "Rockin' in the Free World" played with Pearl Jam.

Young was back with Crazy Horse for 1994's Sleeps with Angels, a much darker record. The title track told the story of Kurt Cobain's death after Young had allegedly tried to contact the singer prior to this event. Cobain had quoted Young's "It's better to burn out than fade away" (a line from "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)") in his alleged suicide note, causing Young to emphasize the line "'cause once you're gone you can't come back" in live performances at the time. Other songs dealt with drive-by shootings ("Driveby"), environmentalism ("Piece of Crap") and Young's own vision of America (the archetypal car metaphor of "Trans Am"). Young was inspired to make the record after viewing Cobain's performance on MTV Unplugged. Still admired by the prime movers of grunge, Young eventually performed with Pearl Jam at the MTV Music Awards during what was described as the highlight of a lackluster show. Their collaboration led to a joint tour, with the band and producer Brendan O'Brien backing Young. The accompanying album, Mirror Ball (1995), recorded as live in the studio captured their loose rock sound, and featured the standout track "I'm the Ocean." The year of 1995 also featured Young's entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

After composing an abstract, distorted feedback-led guitar instrumental soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's acid western film Dead Man Young recorded a series of loose jams with Crazy Horse that eventually appeared as the critically denigrated Broken Arrow. The return to Crazy Horse was prompted by the death of mentor, friend, and longtime producer David Briggs in late 1995. The subsequent tours of Europe and North America in 1996 resulted in both a live album and a tour documentary directed by Jim Jarmusch. Both releases took the name Year of the Horse.

In 1997, Young participated in the H.O.R.D.E. Festival's sixth annual tour.

In 1998, Young shared the stage with the rock band Phish at the annual Farm Aid concert, and later offered them an opportunity to headline both nights of the Bridge School Benefit concert. Phish passed on Young's offer and also declined Young's later invitation to be his backing band on a 1999 tour.

The decade ended with Looking Forward, another reunion with Crosby, Stills and Nash. The subsequent tour of the United States and Canada with the reformed super quartet was a huge success and brought in earnings of $42.1 million, making it the eighth largest grossing tour of 2000.

Young's next album, Silver & Gold (2000), contained a number of understated songs with personal lyrics, which was promoted through a mini-tour of solo acoustic shows. This style was continued in Are You Passionate? (2002), an album of love songs dedicated to his wife, Pegi.

In the aftermath of 9/11

Young's 2001 single "Let's Roll", was a tribute to the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the passengers and crew on Flight 93 in particular. At the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" concert he performed a cover version of John Lennon's "Imagine". In 2002, Q magazine named Neil Young in their list of the "50 Bands To See Before You Die."

Young hauled out his concept album Greendale in 2003 -- about an extended family in a small town called Greendale, and how they're torn apart by a murder. Greendale the album version was recorded with Crazy Horse members Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina. This tale of the Green family also resulted in a movie called Greendale, written and directed by Young (again using his "Bernard Shakey" pseudonym) and starring a few of his friends that act out and lip sync the songs from the album. The film was indeed thoroughly experimental, from Young's rambling on-stage between-song narratives, to his reading apparent transcriptions of these ramblings in the liner notes. "When I was writing this I had no idea what I was doing, so I was just as surprised as you are," Young said later. Young toured extensively with the Greendale material throughout 2003 and 2004, first with a solo, acoustic version in Europe, then with a full-cast stage show in North America, Japan, and Australia. While audience reaction was sometimes mixed (drunken requests for "Southern Man" being an aesthetic impediment at most Young performances), the live stage version of Greendale was for many critics the most satisfying incarnation of the material, and bootlegs of the shows have been widely traded. The second half of each concert consisted of high-decibel renditions of Young classics such as "Hey Hey, My My," "Cinnamon Girl," "Powderfinger," and Rockin' in the Free World, as well as rarities such as "The Losing End," "The Old Country Waltz," and "Danger Bird."

Young spent the latter portion of 2004 giving a series of intimate acoustic concerts in various cities with his wife, Pegi, who is a trained vocalist.

Recent events

On March 31, 2005, Young was admitted to a hospital in New York for treatment for a brain aneurysm. He was treated successfully by a minimally invasive neuroradiological procedure. Prior to undergoing the procedure, he wrote the first eight songs of a new album, Prairie Wind, in Nashville, with session musicians that included regular Young sideman Ben Keith on lap and pedal steel guitars. The last two songs on the album were written after his aneurysm procedure. Many of the songs, such as "Fallin' Off the Face of the Earth," seem to be inspired by Young's brush with mortality, the recent death of his father (who suffered senile dementia), as well as a connection with his Manitoba roots. Two days after the procedure, Young was forced to cancel a scheduled appearance on the Juno Awards telecast in Winnipeg when the area where the surgeons did his procedure (via the femoral artery) suddenly began to bleed. Young finally was able to return to Winnipeg in 2006 with Crosby, Stills and Nash.

He next performed on July 2, 2005, at the close of the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario. He presented a new song, a soft hymn called "When God Made Me," and ended with "Rockin' In The Free World." He began his set with a cover of the Canadian folk classic "Four Strong Winds" by Ian & Sylvia Tyson.

On September 28, 2005, Prairie Wind was released as a regular CD, a special limited-edition CD and DVD package, and on vinyl. In an interview given to Time magazine, Young revealed that he had planned to keep the news of his aneurysm private until he had the bleeding scare, after which he decided to make news of his condition public.

In 2006, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, a film made by Jonathan Demme, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Filmed over two nights at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee during the premiere of Prairie Wind, it includes both new and old songs as well as behind-the scenes-commentary by Young, his wife Pegi and others.

In April 2006, Young confirmed on his website that he was going to release an album full of protest songs, titled Living with War, one of whose songs is titled "Let's Impeach the President." Recorded using his famous Les Paul electric guitar, "Old Black," along with Chad Cromwell (drums), Rick Rosas (bass), and Tommy Brea (trumpet), it was intended to be a stinging rebuke of President George W. Bush and the War in Iraq. The album was recorded in a two week period in April, and was then made available over the internet from 28 April 2006 before being released as a CD on 5 May. Living with War was Young's most talked about release for years, creating heated political debate and a return to form with perhaps his most critically-acclaimed album since the early 1990s "Godfather of Grunge" era when he was hailed as major influences on grunge pioneers Pearl Jam and seminal indie band Sonic Youth among others.

In April 2006, it was announced that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young would embark on their "Freedom Of Speech Tour '06" with Chad Cromwell and Rick Rosas making up the rhythm section. The tour will see them play dates all across North America. The entire Living with War album is being performed on the tour, in addition to other CSN and Neil Young classics such as "Ohio" and "Rockin' in the Free World."

In September 2006, the first release from his long awaited Archives project was announced. Live at the Fillmore East features a live set with Crazy Horse including Danny Whitten from 1970. Young has stated in interviews that the release will be followed by a much larger box set of recordings from his early career.

In October 2006, it was announced that a remastered version of Living with War, titled Living with War - Raw, would be made available for digital download on November 7. It was also announced CD/DVD set of the remastered album will be released on December 19. The DVD will include videos directed by Young of every song on the album, and contain footage of the Iraq War, demonstrations in the US, and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. However, when the CD was released, it was titled Living with War: In the Beginning.

It was announced January 16, 2007 that the next release in the Archives Performance Series project would be from January 19, 1971 where Neil performed at Toronto's Massey Hall. The new release, titled Live at Massey Hall was released March 13.

The first installment of Young's oft-delayed box set The Archives Vol.01 1963-1972 was officially announced with a trailer and website in March and might be released in the Spring of 2008. The box set will feature 8 CDs and 2 DVDs comprising of unreleased studio & live recordings, film footage, photographs and personal letters. Also accompanying the release is a 150-page book.

Young currently lives on a 1500-acre ranch in Woodside, California, called Broken Arrow. He also owns property in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and on the island of Hawaii.


Young was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: first in 1995 for his solo work, with an induction speech given by Eddie Vedder, and again in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield.

He has also directed four movies under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey, and released them through his own Shakey Pictures imprint: Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979) Human Highway (1982) (starring new wave band Devo), and Greendale (2003). The bonus DVDs included in both versions of Greendale and in Prairie Wind are also directed by Young under the Bernard Shakey alias, and all of Young's home video and DVD releases have been co-released under the Shakey Pictures imprint.

As one of the founders of Farm Aid, he remains on their board of directors. For one weekend each October, in Mountain View, California, he and his wife host the Bridge School Concerts, which have been drawing international talent and sell-out crowds for nearly two decades with some of the biggest names in rock having performed at the event including Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, The Who, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth and Sir Paul McCartney. The concerts are a benefit for the Bridge School, which develops and uses advanced technologies to aid in the instruction of children with disabilities. Young's involvement stems at least partially from the fact that both of his sons have cerebral palsy and his daughter, like Young himself, has epilepsy.

Young was nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for his song "Philadelphia" from the film Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen ended up winning the award for his song "Streets of Philadelphia" from the same film). In his acceptance speech, Springsteen said that "the award really deserved to be shared by the other nominee's song." That same night, Tom Hanks accepted the Oscar for Best Actor and gave credit for his inspiration to the song "Philadelphia".

Young owns Vapor Records, who have signed such artists as Jonathan Richman, Tegan and Sara and Catatonia. Since 1995 he has been part owner of Lionel, LLC, a company that makes toy trains and railroads.

Young has twice received honorary doctorates. First in 1992, an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario and secondly in 2006, an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University. The latter honour was shared with his wife Pegi for their creation of the Bridge School.

In a "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list in the June 1996 issue of Mojo magazine, Young was ranked number 9.

In 2000, Young was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

In 2001, Young was awarded the Spirit of Liberty award from the civil liberties group People for the American Way.

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Neil Young #34 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

In a "Greatest Living Songwriters" list in 2006 by Paste Magazine Young was ranked number 2 behind Bob Dylan.


Neil Young is a collector of second-hand guitars, but in recording and performing, he frequently uses just a few instruments. As explained by his longtime guitar technician Larry Cragg in the film Neil Young: Heart of Gold, they include:

  • 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop – Nicknamed "Old Black", this is Young's primary electric guitar and is featured on Rust Never Sleeps and most other albums. Old Black got its name from a purely amateur paintjob applied to the originally-gold body of the instrument, sometime before Neil acquired the guitar in the late 1960s. In 1972, a mini-humbucker pickup from a Gibson Firebird guitar was installed into the lead/treble position, replacing a P-90 as standard on Les Paul guitars from that era. This pickup, severely microphonic, is considered a crucial component of Neil's sound. A Bigsby vibrato unit was installed as early as 1969 on the guitar, and can be heard clearly during the opening of "Cowgirl in the Sand" from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. This guitar also features a mini-switch that is used to send the signal from the mini-humbucker direct to the amp, without going through the volume or tone controls.
  • Martin D-45 – His primary steel-string acoustic guitar; used to write "Old Man" and many other hit songs.
  • Martin D-28 – Nicknamed "Hank" after its previous owner, Hank Williams. The guitar came into Young's possession after Hank Williams, Jr. had traded it to another owner for some shotguns and it went through a succession of other owners until it was located by Young's longtime friend Grant Boatwright. The guitar was purchased by Young from Tut Taylor. Young has toured with it for over 30 years. A story about the guitar and inspired song known as "This Old Guitar" can be seen about 50 minutes into the film Neil Young: Heart of Gold. It is Young's primary guitar for the album, Prairie Wind.
  • 1927 Gibson Mastertone – A six-string banjo, tuned like a guitar. It has been used on many recordings and was played by James Taylor on "Old Man".
  • Various vintage Fender Deluxe amplifiers – Neil's preferred amplifier for electric guitar is the diminutive Fender Deluxe, specifically a Tweed-era model from 1959. Neil purchased his first vintage Deluxe in 1967 for $50 from the drummer of Crazy Horse, Ralph Molina, and has since acquired nearly 450 different examples, all from the same era, but he maintains that it's the original model that sounds superior, and is a crucial component to his trademark sound. A notable and unique accessory to Young's Deluxe is the Whizzer, a device created specifically for Young, which physically changes the amplifier's settings to pre-set combinations. It has gone through many incarnations, and now includes effects pedals hardwired into its circuitry.
  • Gretsch 6120 (Chet Atkins) – Before Neil bought Old Black, this was his primary electric guitar used during his Buffalo Springfield days.
  • Gretsch White Falcon – Late '50s hollow body that Neil purchased near the end of the Buffalo Springfield era; in 1969 Neil acquired a stereo version of the same vintage guitar from Stills, and this instrument is featured prominently during Neil's early '70s period, and can be heard on tracks like "Ohio," "Southern Man," "Alabama," "L.A.," others.

In a large garage underneath his Woodside ranch, Young also maintains a large private collection of classic Detroit-made American cars.

Popular culture

  • Two of the domesticated buffalo used in the production of the film Dances with Wolves were borrowed from Neil Young.
  • An edited version of Young's song "Rockin' in the Free World" plays in the ending credits of the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11.
  • In a sketch of Saturday Night Live, guest host Kevin Spacey portrayed Young with his upcoming fictional album entitled "I Do Not Agree with Many of this Administration's Policies". Featured songs included: "George W. Liar", "I'm Just Going to Go Ahead and Say It, I Don't Think Iraq is Going Well", "Donald Rumsfeld is a Straight-Up Murderer", and "Dick Cheney is Overweight".
  • In the Futurama episode, "Bendin' in the Wind", when Beck and his entourage chase after Bender they get on to Beck's tour bus. As Beck's bus pulls away Neil Young's head is in a jar looking out the window. Behind Young is the head of his Los Angeles scene peer and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell.


The Neil Young discography lists the albums produced by one of rock's most prolific song writers and performers.

Buffalo Springfield

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
December 1966Buffalo SpringfieldJune - September 1966#80
November 18, 1967Buffalo Springfield AgainJanuary - September 1967#44
July 18, 1968Last Time AroundFebruary 1967 - May 1968#42
March 1969The Best of … Retrospective
June 1966 - April 1968#42
1973Buffalo Springfield (Collection)
June 1966 - May 1968-
July 17, 2001Buffalo Springfield (box set)
June 1966 - May 1968#194

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
March 11, 1970Déjà Vu1969#1
April 7, 1971Four Way StreetJune 2–July 5, 1970#1
August 19, 1974So Far
November 3, 1988American DreamMay 3, 1988 - September 16, 1988#16
October 26, 1999Looking Forward1996 - 1999#26

The Stills-Young Band

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
September 10, 1976Long May You Run
with Stephen Stills
and the Stills-Young Band
February 16 - June 7, 1976#26

Solo albums

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
November 12, 1968Neil YoungAugust - October 1968-
May 14, 1969Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
with Crazy Horse
January - March 1969#34
September 19, 1970After the Gold RushAugust 1969 -
June 1970
February 1, 1972HarvestJanuary - September 1971#1
October 15, 1973Time Fades Away1971–1973#22
July 19, 1974On the Beach1973–1974#16
June 20, 1975Tonight's the Night1973#25
November 10, 1975Zuma
with Crazy Horse
June 16, 1974 -
August 29, 1975
May 27, 1977American Stars 'N Bars1974–1977#21
October 21, 1978Comes a Time1975–1977#7
June 22, 1979Rust Never Sleeps
live with Crazy Horse
October 29, 1980Hawks & Doves1974–1980#30
October 28, 1981Re-ac-tor
with Crazy Horse
October 9, 1980 -
July 21, 1981
December 29, 1982TransSeptember 24, 1981 -
May 12, 1982
July 27, 1983Everybody's Rockin'
with the Shocking Pinks
April 27 - May 25, 1983#46
August 12, 1985Old Ways1983–1985#75
July 21, 1986Landing on WaterAugust 1983 -
March 1986
June 30, 1987Life
with Crazy Horse
November 18 -
November 19, 1986
April 12, 1988This Note's for You
with the Bluenotes
December 1987- January 1988#61
April 21, 1989Eldorado
with the Restless
December 13 - December 15, 1988-
October 2, 1989FreedomJuly 25, 1988-
July 10, 1989
September 9, 1990Ragged Glory
with Crazy Horse
April 1990#31
November 2, 1992Harvest MoonSeptember 20, 1991 - February 1, 1992#16
August 6, 1994Sleeps with Angels
with Crazy Horse
November 8, 1993 -
April 25, 1994
August 7, 1995Mirror Ball
with Pearl Jam
January 26 -
February 10, 1995
July 2, 1996Broken Arrow
with Crazy Horse
March 21 -
April 17, 1996
April 25, 2000Silver & GoldAugust 26, 1997 -
May 28, 1999
April 9, 2002Are You Passionate?
with Booker T. & the M.G.'s
February 8 -
December 5, 2001
August 19, 2003Greendale
with Crazy Horse
July 11 -
September 19, 2002
September 27, 2005Prairie WindMarch 2005#11
May 2, 2006Living with WarMarch - April 2006#15
December 19, 2006Living with War: In the BeginningNovember 21, 2006-


Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
November 7, 1972Journey Through the Past
documentary of Young's career
March 1, 1980Where the Buffalo Roam
the film's score is by Young; also includes a track of Young singing "Home on the Range"
January 4, 1994Philadelphia
features song "Philadelphia" by Young
February 27, 1996Dead Man
the film's score is by Young
March 27, 1995-

Live albums

Neil Young has included material recorded live on many of his albums, and has even released entire albums of new material recorded live, notably Time Fades Away and Rust Never Sleeps. Listed here are live albums that do not primarily consist of new material.

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
November 14, 1979Live Rust
with Crazy Horse
October 4 - October 22, 1978#15
October 23, 1991Weld
with Crazy Horse
February - April 1991#154
October 23, 1991Arc
with Crazy Horse
June 8, 1993UnpluggedFebruary 7, 1993#23
June 17, 1997Year of the Horse
with Crazy Horse
May - November 1996#57
December 5, 2000Road Rock Vol. 1
with friends
August - October 2000#169


Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart position
October 28, 1977Decade1966–1976#43
January 6, 1993Lucky Thirteen1981–1988-
November 16, 2004Greatest Hits1969–1992#27

Archives Series

Date of releaseTitleRecording datesPeak Billboard chart positionPeak Canadian chart position
November 14, 2006Live at the Fillmore East
with Crazy Horse
March 7, 1970#55
March 13, 2007Live at Massey HallJanuary 19, 1971#6#1

Solo singles

<td align="lef
YearTitleUS Hot 100US Mainstream RockUK singlesAlbum
1970Cinnamon Girl55--Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
1970Only Love Can Break Your Heart33--After the Gold Rush
1971When You Dance I Can Really Love93--After the Gold Rush
1972Heart of Gold1-10Harvest
1972War Song (with Graham Nash)61--(no album release)
1973Time Fades Away---Time Fades Away
1974Walk On69--On the Beach
1975Lookin' for a Love---Zuma
1975Drive Back---Zuma
1976Long May You Run---Long May You Run
1977Hey Babe---American Stars 'n Bars
1977Like a Hurricane---American Stars 'n Bars
1978Comes a Time---Comes a Time
1978Four Strong Winds
(US B-side: Human Highway)
(UK B-side: Motorcycle Mama)
61-57Comes a Time
1979Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)79--Rust Never Sleeps
1980The Loner (live)---Live Rust
1980Stayin' Power---Hawks & Doves
1981Opera Star---Re-ac-tor
1981Southern Pacific70--Re-ac-tor
1982Little Thing Called Love71--Trans
1982Sample And Hold---Trans
1983Wonderin'---Everybody's Rockin'
1983Cry, Cry, Cry---Everybody's Rockin'
1985Get Back to the Country---Old Ways
1986Weight of the World---Landing on Water
1987Mideast Vacation---Life
1988This Note's for You---This Note's for You
1988Ten Men Workin'---This Note's for You
1989Rockin' in the Free World---Freedom
1990Mansion on the Hill-3-Ragged Glory
1990Over and Over-33-Ragged Glory
1990Crime in the City (live)-34-Weld
1993Harvest Moon--36Harvest Moon
1993The Needle and the Damage Done (live)--75Unplugged
1993Long May You Run (live)--71Unplugged
1994Change Your Mind-18-Sleeps with Angels
1995Downtown (featuring Pearl Jam)-6-Mirror Ball
1995I Got Id (credited to Pearl Jam featuring Neil Young)7225