Tag Archives: Neil Young
This is not a song about cream cheese. Canadian musicians seem to like writing songs about foreign cities: Bruce Cockburn about Tokyo, Joni Mitchell about Paris, and this one about an American city. There are some who say that this man, one of the greatest singer-songwriters in Canadian history, understands Americans better than they understand themselves. Such an understanding may have been born from the fact that he cruised into the music business by driving a Pontiac hearse down to Los Angeles. He formed a band that made it into the American rock and roll hall of fame despite their one-hit wonder status. He then wrote the song “Ohio” about the Kent State Massacre which developed into an anti-war theme song. In 1972, his solo album Harvest became the first album by a Canadian artist to top the charts in Britain. We could place just about any song from Neil Young here. But the one that stands out for us (ever so slightly) is this piano piece which epitomizes sadness more than any tune we’ve ever heard. 36th on our list of all-time favourite songs by Canadian artists is Neil Young’s “Philadelphia“.
Sometimes I think that I know
What love’s all about
And when I see the light
I know I’ll be all right.
I’ve got my friends in the world,
I had my friends
When we were boys and girls
And the secrets came unfurled.
City of brotherly love
Place I call home
Don’t turn your back on me
I don’t want to be alone
Love lasts forever.
Someone is talking to me,
Calling my name
Tell me I’m not to blame
I won’t be ashamed of love.
Artist: Neil Young
To view other songs in the Top 50, click on 50 Favourite Songs in the Categories menu on the right-hand column.
Notable Canadian band manager Bruce Allen organized a project to record a charity single for African famine relief in response to Britain’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Jim Vallance in an interview told the story of how things came together in writing and recording the song “Tears Are Not Enough” sung by a supergroup of Canadian artists called Northern Lights.
…in 1985, David [Foster] returned to Vancouver for a year. He and his wife Rebecca bought a house in the same neighbourhood where Bryan Adams and I lived, but we didn’t see much of them. One day I ran into David in the lobby of Little Mountain Sound Studio, where he was producing an album for Paul Hyde and Bob Rock’s group, The Payolas. He approached me in a panic and said, “You have a home studio, right?” I replied that I did.
Visibly excited, David told me he’d just got off the phone with Quincy Jones, who’d just finished recording a Michael Jackson / Lionel Ritchie song for African famine relief called “We Are The World”. Quincy played the song for David over the phone, and said he wanted David to record a Canadian song for Africa — and it had to be finished in the next week or two so it could be included on the U.S. album release!
“We Are The World” was written in response to Bob Geldoff’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, recorded and released the year before (1984). Geldoff’s song raised millions of dollars for Africa, and had already made a significant difference to those suffering from drought and famine. Quincy hoped that a Canadian song might help make a difference too.
David already had a melody, borrowed from a song he’d been working on, and he had a title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which had been provided by Paul Hyde and Bob Rock. It was nearly twenty years later (2004) when I finally heard the story behind the “title”:
Paul and Bob had been in the studio with Foster on the day that Quincy Jones called. Several weeks earlier they’d written a song called “Tears Are Not Enough”, and after the call from Quincy they played their song for David, thinking it might be suitable for the Famine Relief recording. “So, what do you think?” they asked, when they’d finished presenting the song. “Nice title”, David replied.
The next morning (Friday, February 1, 1985) David arrived at my home studio. He played me his melody on the piano. It was a pretty ballad with an interesting, circular chord progression. He also mentioned Paul and Bob’s title, “Tears Are Not Enough”, which I thought was excellent.
With the melody and the title we had enough to get started, so began recording the track right away. Using his Emulator synthesizer David laid down a piano, followed by a Moog bass, then a bell sound. I added drums and percussion. An hour or two later we had a “basic track” (it was only intended to be a quick “demo” recording, but it worked so well we ended up using it for the final recording).
Then we started working on the lyrics:
We can close the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t you know that tears are not enough
It was a good start, but David had to rush away for a session with The Payolas, promising to return the following day. I continued work on the lyrics while my wife Rachel [Paiement] wrote a few lines in French — after all, it was a Canadian song for Africa!
The next day Bryan Adams arrived from Los Angeles and hurried over to help. He looked at the lyrics I’d written so far and immediately suggested an improvement. “How about ‘we can BRIDGE the distance’?”, he said. It was perfect, and with that we were off and running.
We finished the lyric later that evening, then Bryan and Rachel recorded the vocals. The demo was completed at 4:00 a.m. the next morning.
Meanwhile, David enlisted Bryan’s manager Bruce Allen to help assemble a roster of performers. Bruce was well-connected in the music industry, and in quick succession Joni Mitchell and Neil Young agreed to participate. Then Kim Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Burton Cummings came on board, and so did Geddy Lee and Corey Hart.
Comedians John Candy and Catherine O’Hara offered their services, along with legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer. Dan Hill, Jane Sibbery, Sylvia Tyson, Robert Charlebois … the list of participants grew by the hour.
I suggested we record the vocals at Manta Studios [in Toronto], where I’d recorded Bryan Adams’ first album (and also Barney Bentall, Lisa Dal Bello and Cano). The room was big enough to accommodate a large group, and I also knew that veteran engineer Hayward Parrott could handle the complex task of recording 30 soloists … plus a chorus of 50!
Michael Godin (A&M Records) contacted Manta owner Andy Hermant, who generously donated the studio. On Saturday (February 9, 1985) we flew to Toronto to prepare for the mammoth recording session planned for the following day.
During the flight we reviewed the lyric sheet and the list of artists and determined who would sing which line. We decided the song should begin with Canadian legend Gordon Lightfoot (“As everyday goes by …”), then move to Burton Cummings (“How can we close our eyes …”), then to Anne Murray, Joni Mitchell, and so on.
The session took place on Sunday, February 10, 1985. It was a bitter cold day, but hundreds of fans gathered outside Manta to watch the “stars” arrive. Gordon Lightfoot drove himself to the studio in a pick-up truck. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell arrived by taxi. Platinum Blonde arrived in a white stretch limo.
Just as Quincy Jones had done in Los Angeles, Foster taped a poster in the studio lobby that said, “Leave your egos at the door”. Everyone gave 200 percent, and at the end of the day we had the makings of a magical record.
One of the funniest moments happened during Neil Young’s performance. He’d sung his line once or twice already, but Foster still wasn’t happy and asked Neil to try again. When Neil asked why, David told him he was out of tune. “That’s my style, man”, Neil shot back.
For me, one of the highlights was sitting on the studio floor a few feet from Joni Mitchell while she carved graceful lines in the air with her hands as she sang. Another special moment was meeting Richard Manuel, singer and pianist for “The Band”. In fact, Joni Mitchell and “The Band” are two of my biggest musical influences. I was in “fan heaven”, meeting them and hearing them sing lyrics I’d written!
After completing the vocal session in Toronto, David and I returned to Vancouver and booked time at Pinewood Studios and Little Mountain Sound where more instruments were added to the track, including Loverboy’s Doug Johnson and Paul Dean, who contributed keyboards and guitar. Steven Denroche, a member of the Vancouver Symphony, was called in to play French Horn…
One important Canadian artist unable to attend the Toronto recording session was Bruce Cockburn, who was performing in Germany at the time. Cockburn ‘s manager, Bernie Finkelstein, wondered if there wasn’t a way Bruce could record his vocal at a studio in Germany and have it edited into the finished product at a later date. It was a nice idea, but to meet our deadline Bruce’s contribution would have to be filmed and recorded sometime in the next 48 hours. In a moment of weakness I volunteered to fly to Germany!
The good news is, Air Canada provided a free ticket. The bad news is, there were no direct fights — so I had to fly from Vancouver to Toronto, Toronto to London, London to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Hamburg … a 44-hour round-trip. I arrived in Hamburg just in time to catch Bruce’s performance at a club on Tuesday evening. I met him backstage, for the first time, after the show.
I’d brought a cassette tape of the song, which Bruce hadn’t heard yet. But before I could even play the tape, Bruce dropped a bomb. He said he hadn’t yet decided if he wanted to participate in the project!
Bernie had neglected to tell me that Bruce hadn’t made up his mind yet — and I’d just spent 22 hours on a #$&@ airplane! In my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged stupor my first reaction was to reach across the table and grab Bruce by the throat with both hands. Instead, I used every ounce of diplomacy I could muster. I told Bruce how magical the session in Toronto had been … how it was truly a special project, and that everyone was looking forward to his involvement, which was true!
Bruce eventually came around, and he agreed to meet me at a Hamburg recording studio the following morning. It took less than an hour to complete Bruce’s audio and video recording, then it was back to the airport for the 22-hour return flight to Vancouver (via Frankfurt, London and Toronto).
I met one of the film people at the airport in Toronto during my two-hour lay-over, and I handed him the Cockburn footage to edit into the video. After spending a much-needed night in my own bed in Vancouver, I flew to Los Angeles the next morning to deliver Bruce’s audio track. Foster and his assistant Chris Earthy met me at the airport, and we rushed over to Kenny Roger’s “Lion’s Share” studio where Cockburn’s vocal was edited into the audio mix that engineer Humberto Gatica had nearly completed.
“Tears Are Not Enough” reached #1 on the Canadian charts and helped raise more than $3-million for African Famine Relief.
Lyrics and Vocalists
As every day goes by, how can we close our eyes (Gordon Lightfoot)
Until we open up our hearts (Burton Cummings)
We can learn to share and show how much we care (Anne Murray)
Right from the moment that we start (Joni Mitchell)
Seems like overnight, we see the world in a different light (Dan Hill)
Somehow our innocence is lost (Neil Young)
How can we look away, ’cause every single day (Bryan Adams)
We’ve got to help at any cost (Liberty Silver and Loverboy’s Mike Reno)
Chorus (sung by the nine singers above):
We can bridge the distance
Only we can make the difference
Don’t ya know that tears are not enough
If we can pull together
We could change the world forever
Heaven knows that tears are not enough
It’s up to me and you to make the dream come true (Carroll Baker, Ronnie Hawkins, and Murray McLauchlan)
It’s time to take our message everywhere (Corey Hart)
C’est l’amour qui nous rassemble
d’ici a l’autre bout du monde (Véronique Béliveau, Robert Charlebois, and Claude Dubois)
Let’s show them Canada still cares (Bruce Cockburn)
You know that we’ll be there (Rush’s Geddy Lee)
(Chorus – all 18 singers above)
And if we could try (Bryan Adams and Don Gerrard)
Together you and I (All 44 Singers)
Maybe we could understand the reasons why (Zappacosta and Dalbello)
If we take a stand (Rough Trade’s Carole Pope and The Payola$ Paul Hyde)
Every woman, child and man (Salome Bey, Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes, and The Parachute Club’s Lorraine Segato)
We can make it work for God’s sake lend a hand (Loverboy’s Mike Reno)
(Chorus – all the above singers plus Paul Anka, Liona Boyd, actor John Candy, Tom Cochrane, Tommy Hunter, Martha Johnson (M+M), actor Eugene Levy, pop pianist Frank Mills, Kim Mitchell, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer, Jane Siberry, Sylvia Tyson (Ian & Sylvia), dj Barry Harris, actress Catherine O’Hara, and Wayne St. John)
The “Tears Are Not Enough” project was one of the finest moments in Canadian music history.
Les Yeux de la Faim
It didn’t receive much attention outside of Quebec but Francophone artists banded together to record an additional charity single for African famine relief. Celine Dion, Rene & Nathalie Simard and others lent their voices to the beautiful “Les Yeux de la Faim“.
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.