Neil Percival Young

Neil Percival Young, rock singer, songwriter, guitarist (b at Toronto 12 Nov 1945), son of journalist Scott YOUNG.

Neil Percival Young

Neil Percival Young, rock singer, songwriter, guitarist (b at Toronto 12 Nov 1945), son of journalist Scott YOUNG. After early years with Winnipeg and Toronto rock bands (the Squires, Mynah Birds), Neil Young became a founding member (1966-68) of the folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles. Thereafter he pursued a solo career while maintaining an informal association with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash as a leading concert and recording act (1969-74, 1988, 1999).

Young's trademark songs include "Heart of Gold,""Helpless,""Tell Me Why,""Only Love Can Break Your Heart,""Southern Man,""Cinnamon Girl" and "Rockin' in the Free World." Wary of significant commercial success, Young has traditionally followed best-selling albums such as Harvest (1972) and Rust Never Sleeps (1979) with more challenging releases that have allowed him to maintain a high degree of artistic credibility over the length of his career.

Following a creative fallow period, Neil Young released a series of critically acclaimed albums beginning with Freedom (1989) and including Ragged Glory (1990), Harvest Moon (1992) and Sleeps With Angels (1994). A mid-1990s tour and album with Seattle grunge supergroup Pearl Jam proved that Young could still reach a young audience with his raw, improvisational brand of guitar rock. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Young continues to record and tour. The live album Road Rock was released in 2000 and in 2001 the song "Let's Roll" became a major hit in the United States. A tribute to passengers who fought back against the hijackers aboard doomed United Airlines Flight 93 on 11 Sept, the song was the centerpiece of the album Are You Passionate? (2002). He followed it a year later with Greendale, a concept album that mourns the loss of identity in small-town America. It earned a four-star review in Rolling Stone and equally high praise in the New York Times, where novelist Madison Smartt Bell noted: "Mr Young has always been remarkable for his creative resilience, and this time he really has done something new, rendering into this combination of print and audio a novel that is surprisingly sophisticated and satisfyingly complete." Young performed the album's songs to mixed reviews during a summer 2003 concert tour before premiering a movie of the same name at that year's Toronto International Film Festival; he directed the roughshod film (shot with a hand-held Super 8 camera) under his nom de plume Bernard Shakey.

Shortly before a much-anticipated homecoming appearance at the 2005 JUNO AWARDS in Winnipeg, Young underwent surgery for a brain aneurysm in New York. While recovering he wrote at a furious pace and that fall delivered Prairie Wind, which is widely considered to be the third in a trilogy of plainspoken, deceptively simple acoustic classics that began with Harvest and continued with Harvest Moon. He also enlisted filmmaker Jonathan Demme (whose credits include the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense) to shoot Heart of Gold, a concert film recorded in 2005 at the Grand Ole Opry's Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

2006 saw the release of Living With War, Young's fiery condemnation of the machinations leading to the Iraq War and, in particular, US president George W. Bush (typified by the song "Let's Impeach the President"). Performances of the entire album were the centrepiece of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Freedom of Speech Tour that summer; the Young-directed documentary film CSNY: Déjà Vu, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, captures the heated mixed emotions generated by the tour. The studio recording Chrome Dreams II, ostensibly a followup to an unreleased Young album from the late 1970s, was released in 2007.

Young has dedicated considerable time to combing through his recording vaults in recent years. His long-awaited Archives series launched in 2006 with Live at the Fillmore East, a 1970 concert recording featuring Young and Crazy Horse. It was followed by the solo recording Live at Massey Hall 1971, a legendary Toronto concert at which Young performed songs set to appear on his landmark After the Gold Rush. Sugar Mountain - Live at Canterbury House 1968 was released in 2008. Another live concert set, the recording featured Young in an acoustic performance at Ann Arbor, MI, just days before the release of his self-titled solo debut album. A 12-track live album, A Treasure, was released in 2011 featuring music that was recorded during Young's 1984 and 1985 US tours, backed by The International Harvesters, an all-star group of country musicians.

In 2010, Young released Le Noise, a solo album produced by Daniel LANOIS, who has produced sessions for U2, Bob Dylan and many other rock luminaries. "Angel's World" from that album was awarded a Grammy for Best Rock Song at the 2011 Grammys. At the 2011 Juno Awards, the album garnered Neil Young the Juno for Artist of the Year, where the artist was also received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award in recognition of his extensive involvement in humanitarian causes throughout his career. In a radical departure from his previous album, Young released Americana in 2012. The recording drew inspiration from traditional American folk music with an eclectic selection of songs ranging from "Oh Susanna" to the 1958 r&b hit "Get a Job." 2012 also saw the release of the double-album Psychedelic Pill, his first recording of original music with Crazy Horse in almost a decade.


Neil Young - Rolling Stone

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Further Reading

  • Young, Neil, Waging Heavy Peace (2012); David Downing, A Dreamer of Pictures (1994); Scott Young, Neil and Me (1984; rev 1997); Jimmy McDonough, Shakey (2003).