Born: 1945, Toronto
- Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1982)
- U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1995)
- Canada Walk of Fame (2000)
- The first Canadian artist to have a number one album in Britain
- 3 Major Juno Awards: Male Vocalist of the Years 1995 and 2001 and Album of the Year for Harvest Moon (1994)
- Ranked #34 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Artists of All-Time” (2004)
- Ranked #2 (behind Bob Dylan) in Paste Magazine’s “Greatest Living Songwriters” list (2006)
“Heart of Gold” (1972)
- 8th Biggest Song of the Year in Canada
- One of the Top 10 Canadian songs of the 70s
- #1 single in Canada and the U.S.
Other Popular Songs:
- “Cinnamon Girl” (1969)
- “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (1970)
- “After the Gold Rush” (1970)
- “Ohio” (with Crosby, Stills & Nash; 1970)
- “Helpless” (with Crosby, Stills & Nash; 1970)
- “Old Man” (1972)
- “This Note’s For You” (1988)
- “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989)
- “Harvest Moon” (1992)
- “Philadelphia” (1994)
- “Downtown” (with Pearl Jam; 1995)
Neil Young was born in Toronto as the son of sports journalist Scott Young. He suffered from illnesses (diabetes and polio) as a child and his parents divorced when he was in his early youth. He moved to Winnipeg with his mother and began learning guitar. He recounts that he used to endlessly plug coins into the jukebox to hear Ian & Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds”. (In 1979, he recorded the most successful cover of the song.) He formed his first band, The Jades, in Junior High School which later coalesced into The Squires. In 1963, they cut their first single, “The Sultan”, which was a local hit. The band played local clubs and cafés where Young eventually met Joni Mitchell and American musician Stephen Stills. He wrote the folk song “Sugar Mountain” and Mitchell wrote “The Circle Game” in response. He also became good friends with Randy Bachman (The Guess Who / Bachman-Turner Overdrive). The Squires split up in 1965, and Young relocated to Toronto, forming a band with Rick James and Bruce Palmer called the Mynah Birds. They recorded an album’s worth of material for Motown, none of which was released.
Young felt that his career was going nowhere and decided to drive down to Los Angeles in his Pontiac hearse, taking Palmer with him. They ran into Stills again and decided to form a half-Canuck, half-Yankee hybrid band called Buffalo Springfield who recorded their first album in 1966 and then a few more before calling it quits in 1968. The band was a one-hit wonder with “For What It’s Worth” which peaked at #7 on the Billboard charts. Despite this and their short life, the band, perhaps because of the critical acclaim it garnered, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
His work with the band was enough to get him signed with Reprise Records (home of Joni Mitchell) as a solo artist. And he released his first album in 1969. After touring Canada, he hooked up with a band called The Rockets. He convinced them to join him under the name Crazy Horse, critically hailed as one of the best garage-rock bands of all-time. They supported Young on his sophomore effort Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. With such classics (which Young incidentally wrote with a high fever) as “Cinnamon Girl” and “Down by the River”, the album went gold.
Celebrating his success, Young reconnected with Stills who had also hit the big time, having released an album the same year with his new trio Crosby, Stills, and Nash (CSN). Two of their singles had cracked the Top 30 and their album peaked at #6. CSN invited Young to join them on their sophomore release, Déjà Vu. The album was a beautiful collaboration. The four members wrote two songs each for the album. Stills and Young wrote one together. And the band covered Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock”. Nash’s two compositions and Mitchell’s made the Billboard Top 30. The album itself went #1. Following the Kent State massacre, Young wrote the song “Ohio” and had the band record it quickly. The single became an anti-war staple song. There were tensions in the band: CSN wanted to do rock whereas Young wanted to do folk. As a result, Young shifted into 5th gear on his solo career.
As a soloist, Neil Young released After the Gold Rush and its single “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” in 1970. The album peaked at #8 in the U.S. and went 2x multi-platinum. The single peaked at #16 in Canada. In “Southern Man”, Young criticized the southern U.S. for its racism which prompted the friendly reply by Lynyrd Skynyrd in their “Sweet Home Alabama” in which they mention Young by name. In 1971, Neil Young skyrocketed to superstardom when he released Harvest and “Heart of Gold”. It was the first Canadian album to top the album charts in Britain, a feat that took 19 years to repeat. It topped the charts in the U.S. as well. The single went #1 in the U.S. and Canada and cracked the Top 10 in Britain. “Old Man” was the second hit single released.
Rather than embracing his success, Young spurned it and began recording much darker material. But his albums continued to sell well. In the 80s, Young began experimenting with heavy metal, electronic rock, country, and rockabilly.
In the late-80s, he came out with “This Note’s for You”, supported with a highly-praised video that satirized rock stars endorsing commercial products. 1989′s Freedom made him popular in indie rock circles. Reuniting with Crazy Horse again, the loud feedback-drenched Ragged Glory earned Young the appellation “Granddaddy of Grunge”. Now at 45, Young needed to become hip in the young alternative rock scene, so he hired Sonic Youth as his opening act on tour. The live album Weld followed. In keeping with his trademark idiosyncratic nature, he opted for a much more peaceful follow-up and released the mellow Harvest Moon, a sequel to 1971′s Harvest, in 1992. It was his biggest album in Canada going 5x multi-platinum.
In 1994, he recorded one of the theme songs for the film Philadelphia. And he released the Top 10 album Sleeps with Angels. The following year he collaborated with rock band Pearl Jam in the release Mirror Ball which peaked at #5. The man hasn’t slowed down; so far this decade, he has released 7 albums, all of which have made the Top 30. Young has spent a lot of time in the U.S. but has never renounced his Canadian citizenship. A tribute album to Young, Borrowed Tunes, features such Canadian artists as Randy Bachman, Jann Arden, and Blue Rodeo. He closed the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in 2010 performing, “Long May You Run”.
Neil reunited with Crazy Horse in 2012 releasing the album Psychedelic Pill as well as an album of covers called Americana.