In 1975, shortly before his 30th birthday, Neil Young said in an interview with the magazine Rolling Stone that each of his recordings was for him “like a developing autobiography … my mission is to express everything that happens to me.”
Seen 45 years later, that statement reflects the restless, productive and award-winning career of this rock, country and folk icon, whose decades of activity are far from over. Guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Young has worked solo and with other artists including Pearl Jam, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, and Emmylou Harris.
A ranking of it Rolling Stone made in 2015 put Young in the top 20 of the 100 best guitarists in history. On that occasion it was said that “Neil’s style is like a pipe that directly connects his heart to the audience.” His playing has, in fact, been a source of inspiration for numerous bands. He was called “grunge’s grandfather” because influenced the undisputed star of that genre, Kurt Cobain.
Young en 1972.
It all started with a ukulele
Neil Young was born in Toronto (Canada) on November 12, 1945. The boy, who suffered from the effects of polio, became interested in music at an early age. His first instrument was a ukulele. In the interview with Rolling Stone By 1975 he recalled that there came a point where he couldn’t stop thinking about making music. In 1963 he founded the group The Squires, dropped out of school and started playing in cafes and clubs in the city. In those years he also met the singer Stephen Stills.
In the 1960s he moved to Los Angeles (United States) and in 1966, together with Stills and three other musicians, he created the band Buffalo Springfield. Two years later he left the group and began his solo career. For a time he was accompanied by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. In August 1969 they played together at the legendary Woodstock festival. Throughout all these years, Young has been permanently on tour and has recorded numerous studio and live albums.
His political songs
Since 1968, Young has been releasing records at a rate of almost one a year. His biggest hits include “Heart of Gold,” “Old Man,” “The Needle and the Damage Done,” “Ohio,” “Helpless,” “Cinnamon girl,” and “Harvest Moon.” Many people identify with their popular anthems, including Donald Trump, who used the iconic song “Rockin ‘in the Free World” in his campaign appearances. But Neil Young said he could not allow his music “to be used as the subject of an ignorant and hateful, divisive and anti-American campaign,” and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Stills, Nash, Crosby, and Young in 2000.
The musician, who has lived in California since the 1960s, did not become a US citizen until January 2020. As he has always been a political artist, it was no wonder that he repeatedly ran against Trump. In an open letter he even said that the president was “an embarrassment to the country.”
Their songs often refer to contemporary events, and their lyrics have become veritable anthems of the counterculture, as was the case with the protest song “Ohio,” written a couple of days after the Kent State massacre in 1970. On May 4 of that year, the Ohio National Guard shot dead four students protesting the war.
“Unbridled passion of an artist”
In 1995, Young was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “Young has constantly demonstrated the unbridled passion of an artist who understands that reinventing himself is the only way to avoid fading. In this way he remained one of the greatest artists in rock and roll,” says the Hall of Fame website.
He is currently writing a science fiction novel with the provisional title of “Canary.” In 2012 he published his autobiography “The dream of a hippie” (translated in 2014 into Spanish). Musician, composer, writer … but that’s not all. Young has also shown tremendous ecological awareness. He was one of the founders of “Farm Aid,” an annual benefit concert that seeks to help American farmers.
Tom Hanks and “Philadelphia”.
In 1994 he was nominated for an Oscar for his song “Philadelphia”, from the homonymous film directed by Jonathan Demmes. That year, however, the Oscar for Best Original Song was won by Bruce Springsteen with “Streets of Philadelphia”, from the same film.
Most people are retired in their 70s. This is not the case with Young. As the coronavirus began to spread around the world, the artist began broadcasting acoustic concerts from his home. He called them “Fireside Sessions.”
When in 2018 the magazine Rolling Stone Asked if he had plans to retire, the musician responded with a joke: “I am going out with Cher. Cher and I will do a tour for retirees.” And added: “When I retire, people will know that I died.”