Influential singer-songwriter Neil Young turns 78 today

The Canadian artist was born in 1945

Influential singer-songwriter Neil Young turns 78 today

Neil Young was born Neil Percival Young on November 12th, 1945 in Toronto, Canada. After embarking on a music career in the 1960’s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. The band had a big hit with “For What It’s Worth” in 1967 aided by Young’s melodic harmonics played on electric guitar. According to Rolling Stone, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other sources, Buffalo Springfield helped create the genres of folk rock and country rock. Distrust of their management, as well as the arrest and deportation of Palmer, exacerbated the already strained relations among the group members and led to Buffalo Springfield’s demise. After the break-up of Buffalo Springfield, Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records, Young’s first solo record was released in 1969 self-titled “Neil Young”. Young reunited with Stephen Stills by joining Crosby, Stills & Nash, who had already released one album Crosby, Stills & Nash as a trio in May 1969. Young was originally offered a position as a sideman, but agreed to join only if he received full membership, and the group – winners of the 1969 “Best New Artist” Grammy Award – was renamed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  The band played at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, during which Young skipped the majority of 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”. Despite the tension, Young’s tenure with CSN&Y coincided with the band’s most creative and successful period, and greatly contributed to his subsequent success as a solo artist.

Young released his third solo album, “After the Gold Rush” in 1970, one of his best selling works, including the songs “Southern Man” (along with a later song entitled “Alabama”) that was controversial with southerners in an era of desegregation, prompting Lynyrd Skynyrd to decry Young by name in the lyrics to their hit “Sweet Home Alabama”. One of Young’s signature songs. “The Needle and the Damage Done”, a somber lament on the pain caused by heroin addiction, had been inspired in part by Crazy Horse member Danny Whitten, who eventually died while battling his drug problems. Young continued to enjoy success throughout the 1970’s but during the 1980’s his career slowed down. Young’s 1989 single “Rockin’ in the Free World”, which hit No. 2 on the US mainstream-rock charts, and accompanying album, Freedom, rocketed him back into the popular consciousness after a decade of sometimes-difficult genre experiments.  The use of heavy feedback and distortion on several Freedom tracks was reminiscent of the “Rust Never Sleeps” (1979) album, and foreshadowed the imminent rise of grunge. The rising stars of the genre, including Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, frequently cited Young as a major influence, contributing to his popular revival. 1992’s “Harvest Moon” marked an abrupt return to the country and folk-rock stylings of Harvest (1972) and reunited him with some of the musicians from that album In 1994 Young again collaborated with his old band Crazy Horse for “Sleeps with Angels”, a record whose dark, somber mood was influenced by Kurt Cobain’s death earlier that year: the title track in particular dealt with Cobain’s life and death, without mentioning him by name. Cobain had quoted Young’s lyric “It’s better to burn out than fade away” (a line from “My My, Hey Hey”) in his suicide note. Young had reportedly made repeated attempts to contact Cobain prior to his death. Neil Young continues to be one of the most influential artists and in later years have been more politically outspoken than ever as well as an advocat for several human right causes and environment. Recently, he confirmed his marriage to famous actress Daryl Hannah (62) in August 2018.  In 1995 Neil Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eddie Vedder.

Celebrate Neil Young with this wonderful acoustic Live at the BBC concert from 1971

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