"I sing the song because I love the man." So what more can I say?
Here's a collection of articles and links of a Neil Young biography forming a chronology and timeline of his musical career. Starting all the way back to when Neil Percival Kenneth Ragland Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario. Follow Neil's career from the classic phase of Buffalo Springfield, to Crazy Horse, onto Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. On through the punk, shakey and grunge phases. There's a Neil sound for almost every mood - rock, jazz, folk, country, grunge, feedback metal.
"Young may have jettisoned lots of folks along the way, but he's never sacrificed integrity on the altar of commerce. And that's why we still listen", writes Marc Weingarten on Slate which sums up succintly the analysis of Neil Young's impact on rock music while remaining true to his musical values.
Probably one of the most remarkable legends about Neil's music is that he wrote "Cinnamon Girl", "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" all in one afternoon. Many artists would be content to create a single masterpiece over the course of their career. But according to the "Decade" liner notes written by Young himself, he wrote the three songs for the album "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" while lying in bed with a fever of 103 degrees in Topanga Canyon. And here are some more interesting Neil facts.
As time moved on, the legends continued to proliferate. One of the most well known is that Neil Young was the catalyst for the grunge movement which spawned the bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and countless others. So is Young the "Godfather of Grunge"? Some say so and some don't. More on Neil Young as the Godfather of Grunge.
Neil continues to give the middle finger to the establishment on everything from the environment to geo-politics. Kinda like our man Johnny Cash.
Paul Nelson writes in Rolling Stone, on 27th July 1978 on the Boarding House shows:
"In the manner of the best of the traditional blues singers, Neil Young seems totally alone on stage in a way that almost no contemporary performer ever does. But he's not foreboding, and you don't feel shut off. Head down, chin tucked into his shoulders like a boxer, he peers out at you with those all-knowing eyes filled with humour and flashes that beatific, silly grin. Like Muhammad Ali, he may well be the greatest."
May 26th & 27th, 1978 - YOUNG'S ONE STOP WORLD TOUR, The Boarding House, San Francisco, in Rolling Stone.
Dave Marsh writes on Neil Young in The Rolling Stone book History of Rock:
"Bob Dylan changed rock fundamentally. He gave it a
sense of tradition, rooted in white folk music and high culture. He showed a
distrust for the very technology it exploited, a disdain for conventional
celebrity, a brooding lyrical seriousness and a yearning for high art
Neil Young is Dylan's greatest disciple, not only
because of a shared sound-a wracked voice, an inability to stay in one
stylistic space for long-but also because of a shared cunning: Young
has mastered Dylan's greatest trick, the art of self-mythology.
There is one difference. While Dylan shaped his
legend through indirection and enigma, Neil Young has scripted his own
myth boldly, in the song selection and liner notes to a succession of
retrospective albums. The most important of these, the three record
anthology called Decade, represents nothing less than his claim to be
considered the preeminent American rock performer of his generation.
That this claim is called into question by
scrutiny of his work is part of the point: by emphasizing certain highlights
and disregarding the rest, Young has managed to avoid close analysis,
leaving most critics gaping in awe of an image greater than the work that
supports it--the ultimate Dylanesque trick. "
John Rockwell writing in the New York Times article Neil Young - As Good As Bob Dylan?: "One hopes that [Decade] will inspire the critical reassessment that will establish [Young] rightfully in the pantheon of post-war American popular art."
Steve Erickson writes on Young's 70's work:
"This is back before he became rock's Man That Time Forgot, making music at once primordial and futuristic, homegrown and surreal, traditional and insurrectionist, beguiling and cataclysmic -- before he became, with his distinctive voice and racked Mojave-storm guitar, a one-man vortex for folk, country, blues, psychedelia, grunge, electronica, symphonic sweep, metallic squall. "
Piero Scaruffi writes on The History of Rock Music - The Sixties:
Perhaps no other artist in the history of rock music has produced so many distinguished works in so many different styles and over so many years as Neil Young . "Neil Young constitutes with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen the great triad of 'moral' voices of American popular music. As is the case with the other two, Young's art is, first and foremost, a fusion of music and words that identifies with his era's zeitgeist. Unlike the others, though, Young is unique in targeting the inner chaos of the individual that followed the outer chaos of society. While Dylan 'transfers' his era's events into a metaphysical universe, and Springsteen relates the epic sense of ordinary life, Young carries out a more complex psychological operation that, basically, bridges the idealism of the hippy communes and the neuroses of the urban population. His voice, his lyrics, his melodies and his guitar style compose a message of suffering and redemption that, at its best, transcends in hallu!
cination, mystical vision, philosophical enlightenment, while still grounded in a context that is fundamentally a hell on earth.
The various aspects of Young's career (the bucolic folk-singer, the liberal militant, the post-hippie moralist, the apocalyptic guru, the universal pessimist, the melancholy loner, the alienated rocker) are merely stages of a long calvary, which is both individual and collective.
Young did to the lyrical song what Dylan did to the protest song: just like Dylan wed the emphasis of Whitman's poetry and the optimism of Kennedy's era with the themes of public life, Young wed Emerson's humanism and the pessimism of the post-Kennedy era with the themes of private life.
On top of this, Young invented the distorted, cacophonous, nightmarish style of guitar playing that would influence the grunge generation.
Young is also unique in his schizophrenia, which runs at several levels. First and foremost, one has to deal with the live/studio dichotomy."
"Yet Young has managed to produce the most consistently compelling body of work of any musician of his generation. Who else has remained so relevant, so vital, so influential in so many musical genres? The last few years in particular--beginning with Freedom in 1989, through the cataclysmic Ragged Glory (1990) and his subsequent tour with Crazy Horse, and continuing with his soaring, show-stealing performance at the Bob Dylan tribute last October and the release of Harvest Moon--have seen Young at an artistic peak, following his own muse as always and resolutely refusing to fall into the 'oldies act' category that has beset virtually all of his contemporaries."
In the hand written liner notes of Decade, Neil writes: ''Heart of Gold' put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.' See Neil Young Interviews for more comments on the success of Harvest.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article: "NEIL YOUNG ... THROUGH THE YEARS ; A LOOK AT FOUR-PLUS DECADES OF MUSIC FROM THE LEGENDARY ROCKER" By Barry Gilbert, Jeff Daniel, Daniel Durchholz, Richard Newman on 10 August 2003:
"If Neil Young had retired on the laurels of his 1960s output - quitting, say, when 'After the Gold Rush' was released in July 1970 - his place in rock history already would have been secured.
By that date, Young, then only 24, had written and recorded 'Mr. Soul,' 'Expecting to Fly,' 'Broken Arrow' and 'I Am a Child' with Buffalo Springfield; and 'The Loner,' 'Cinnamon Girl,' Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,' 'Down by the River,' 'Cowgirl in the Sand' and 'Southern Man' as a solo artist, with and without his longtime band Crazy Horse. He also had contributed three songs and his fiery guitar to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 'Deja Vu' (1970).
More than perhaps any artist of his generation - taking nothing away from Dylan - Young's fierce independence and integrity has been an inspiration to waves of young musicians, from Los Angeles punks (Social Distortion, Sonic Youth) to Seattle grunge rockers (Nirvana, Pearl Jam et al.) to alt-country hipsters (Uncle Tupelo, Bottle Rockets - listen again to 'Thousand Dollar Car').
All the while, Young has recorded exciting, challenging, sometimes exasperating (see the 1980s), occasionally confounding but never boring music in a career that continues to flourish.
Young is such a singular artist, it's easy to hear whom he influenced. But it's harder to pick out his influences: perhaps Del Shannon (listen to 'Burned,' his first studio vocal, from 'Buffalo Springfield'), maybe some Roy Orbison, some Woody Guthrie and some blues. "
"Albums are a lucky dip with good odds: herbal, articulate country folk musings follow driving tales of social commentary, pioneering heads-down grunge trash emphasises melodies from cochlea heaven. Cryptic and contrary lyrics engender debate like a good film, though he writes about love with precision and authority.
Catch a Neil Young gig on a reasonably good day (such as at the Fleadh Festival in London, June 2001) and you'll see a formidable display of self-expression through an instrument, especially within his brick outhouse backing band Crazy Horse, whose only boundaries are the entertainments licence of the venue. "
"In more than thirty-years as a recording artist, Neil Young has experienced as many extreme low points of critical and commercial success as he has high but, without a doubt, he is one of the most important rock composers and performers North America can claim. His signature raw nasal tone, shrill guitar playing, highly personal lyric-writing, and hippie-cowboy loner stance have helped shape rock and roll as it has advanced from adolescence into maturity. Through his experimentation with every genre, from folk to heavy metal to rockabilly to techno, Young has created a sound and feel uniquely his own. "
From The Observer, 17 Aug 2003, by Kitty Empire:
"In the rock'n'roll canon, Neil Young is one of the untouchables: a singer and guitarist endlessly - tediously, perhaps - praised for his honesty, passion and unswerving devotion to his art. Even his greatest fans, however, can see the man has flaws - indeed, they often identify them as part of his appeal, a humanity and fallibility that most legends are all too anxious to hide."
"Let me say this much for him. Anyone from the sixties who's held out this long has to go a long way to stay credible. Luckily, Neil Young is gifted enough with songwriting and quavering voice to hang in there. The thing is, if he had never taken any detours, you know that we'd all be sick of him coming out with the same thing for twenty years now no matter how high-quality it all is. Even a good thing can get tired out after a while. No doubt that he's had this in mind for a while and sworn to stay fresh by taking chances, wrong turns and gambles, some of which have paid off. In fact, if you think about it, it's just things like that which make rock so exciting. Why the hell would we deny him that?
When all's said and done, I'm still a fan. I've seen David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and plenty of other nitwits take all kinds of wacked out trips with their 'art' and looking like even bigger fools than the fans they fuck over. Admittedly, some of Neil's 80s music is just as contemptuous especially considering how easily he bounced back as if to say that he could have made great music any time he felt like it (not to mention burying the Catalyst performances). He still means something to a lot of people and will for a long time because not only does he still have the knack that made him great but he also refused to turn into a bitter old man or clever statesman or live solely off his past achievements. I wish him the best and hope to hell that I'm just as ornery, good-hearted and spirited when I'm about to hit 50."
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For more on Neil's music and the music and bands that he influenced from alt.country to grunge, check out a Neil Young Blog.