Easily one of the most influential artists of his generation, singer-songwriter Neil Young has been performing and releasing records for over 40 years. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and has released 34 studio albums to date. Originally from Canada, Young mov... More
Easily one of the most influential artists of his generation, singer-songwriter Neil Young has been performing and releasing records for over 40 years. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and has released 34 studio albums to date. Originally from Canada, Young moved to California in 1966 and co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield along with Stephen Stills. They became a critical success with their self-titled first album released in 1966, which produced the hit “For What It’s Worth”. After a falling out with their management and the arrest and deportation of one of the group’s members, the band began to fall apart and released two more records before they split up for good in 1968.
After leaving Buffalo Springfield, Young went on to pursue a solo career and eventually signed a deal with Reprise Records who in 1968 released his first album, “Neil Young”. His next album saw him teaming up with the group Crazy Horse and 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” is now hailed as one of his classic works featuring such famous songs as “Cinnamon Girl”, “Cowgirl In The Sand”, and “Down By The River”. It was shortly after this that Young was asked to join Crosby, Stills, & Nash, reuniting him with Stephen Stills. They debuted in 1969 with the album “Déjà vu”, an album known not only for its great work but for how frequently the members argued during recording, particularly Stills and Young. Inner turmoil notwithstanding, Young’s period with CSN&Y resulted in one of their most creative and successful periods. Such songs as “Carry On”, “Helpless”, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House” have been placed in rock history as classics. The band also recorded the song “Ohio”, written and sang by Young, the protest song following the 1970 Kent State Massacre and quickly became a staple of anti-war rallies during that time.
Later in 1970 Young released his now infamous album, “After the Gold Rush”; recording without Crazy Horse, this album was less electrified than the previous “Everybody Knows” and features some of his most famous songs to date. With an extended range in sound featuring everything from country to heavy blues, songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”, “After the Gold Rush” and “Southern Man” showed the versatility and range of Young as not only a songwriter but as a musician as well. After his tour to support “After the Gold Rush”, Young released his fourth and easily most successful album, “Harvest” in 1972. Coupled with Young’s trip to Nashville and his life becoming more settled down, the tone of “Harvest” was more laid-back and down home than any of his previous work. Songs like “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”, reflected on growing up and searching for a deeper meaning while “Alabama” and “The Needle and the Damage Done” related to heavy topics in America at the time such as racism and drug abuse.
The following years saw some tragedy happen in Young’s life, the first being the overdose of Crazy Horse guitarist and friend, Danny Whitten, which threw young into insecurity. Followed by live struggles and another death, this time of roadie Bruce Berry, Young released his darkest record to date, “Tonight’s the Night”. His record label didn’t like the raw nature of the songs and their somber undertone and it took two years before they would release it. While album sales were low during this period, the records received praise from critics, along with “Time Fades Away” and “On the Beach” these records mark Young’s “ditch” period where we saw him dealing with his own personal struggles along with the collapse in idealism with his generation in America.
Following the “ditch” period, Young reunited with Crazy Horse and put out a series of albums that began to bring back his commercial popularity, “Zuma” in 1975, “Comes a Time” in 1978, which marked the return to his folk roots and “Rust Never Sleeps” in 1979. The latter featuring an accompanying live album entitled “Live Rust” as well as a movie. These releases saw such songs as “Cortez the Killer”, “Through My Sails”, “Lotta Love”, “Powderfinger” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”. 1979 saw Neil Young earn the praise of critics and readers of Rolling Stone by receiving Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.
The majority of the 1980’s saw Young experimenting with different sounds including synthesizers, rockabilly and a country album called “Old Ways”. It was also a time of personal and professional struggle for the artist. His son Ben, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and his daughter Amber Jean with inherited epilepsy, found him spending the majority of his time with them and not touring as frequently. He was also in the midst of an ongoing battle with his record label at the time, Geffen. After switching back to his old label, Reprise, Young began to tour constantly and released the album “This Note’s For You”, spawning his first hit single on the decade. He also got together with Crosby, Stills & Nash to record 1988’s “American Dream”, the follow up to “Déjà vu”.
Neil Young’s 1989 album “Freedom” brought him back into the view of the public after a decade of trouble and challenges. Along with the single “Rockin’ in the Freeworld”, Young received praise from bands in the emerging grunge scene. 1990’s “Rugged Glory” continued the sound found on “Freedom” and saw Young touring with punk band Social Distortion and alternative rock group Sonic Youth. In 1992 he released “Harvest Moon”, which was a return to the country and folk sound featured on “Harvest” and saw him release a live MTV Unplugged album in 1993. Another record with Crazy Horse titled “Sleeps with Angels”, released in 1994, whose mood was inspired by the death of Kurt Cobain. In 1995 he got together with Pearl Jam to record a live-in-the-studio album entitled “Mirror Ball”, embarked on a tour of Europe and got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999, “Looking Forward” marked another reunion with CSN&Y and launched a highly successful tour of the United States and Canada.
Neil Young continued to release new material throughout the 2000’s and saw him taking a stand in activism once again. Protesting against the US invasion of Iraq and President George W. Bush, “Living With War” showcased a return to current events being present in Young’s songwriting. He continued to tour, perform and release material for both compilations and collaborations with other artists and directors. On June 5, 2012 Neil Young & Crazy Horse released “Americana”, a tribute to some of the nation’s most popular folk songs. Including, “Oh Susanna”, “Clementine”, “This Land Is Your Land” and “God Save The Queen”, a reference to Young’s upbringing in Canada. The album resulted in the Neil Young & Crazy Horse launching their first tour in over eight year to support the record.