Young was born in Toronto, Canada to Edna “Rassy” Young, a former quiz
show panelist on Canadian Television, and Scott Young, a writer. In
1960, after Rassy and Scott split up, Neil and his mother moved to
Winnipeg, Manitoba. Young was a rather apathetic student, for more
interested in playing the guitar and banjo than keeping his mind on his
studies. He eventually dropped out of high school to concentrate on the
band he had formed, Neil Young & the Squires.
With Mrs. Young’s help, the Squires gained a fair amount of regional notoriety. Drawing influence from Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Ventures, and the Shadows, the band evolved from an instrumental group to a folk-rock band, and began performing in many clubs in the area.
During the mid-‘60s, Young returned to Toronto, where he played as a solo folk act. By 1966, he joined the Mynah Birds, a group fronted by future soul-music star and “Super Freak”, Rick James and with bassist Bruce Palmer. On this scene, Young met a number of folk artists, including Joni Mitchell, guitarist Rickie Furay, and Steven Stills, who was then playing with his own band, the Company.
When the Mynah Birds disbanded after recording one album, Young and Bruce Palmer moved to the promised land of L.A., where they hooked up with Stills, Furay, and drummer Dewey Martin to form the seminal folk-rock band the Buffalo Springfield. Stills’ counterculture anthem “For What It’s Worth” earned the band nationwide fame, but it was Young who drew much attention for his idiosyncratic style and high-energy guitar playing. In their two-year existence, the band recorded three successful albums and a retrospective (Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again, Last Time Around, and The Best of Buffalo Springfield) for Atco before their falling out in 1968.
After the split of Buffalo Springfield, Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records, and released a poorly received eponymous debut, Neil Young in January of 1969. His second solo effort, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was recorded in his own studio setup at his Topanga, California home with his new backing band Crazy Horse. This became a major hit and went platinum on the strength of songs like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Cowgirl in the Sand”, and “Down by the River”.
Following the completion of the record, Young began jamming with Crosby, Stills, & Nash, eventually joining the group in time for the historic Woodstock Festival in 1969. He eventually recorded 3 albums as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: 1970’s Déjà vu, 1971’s live 4-Way Street, and 1988’s American Dream. Young contributed songs like “Helpless”, “Country Girl”, and “Ohio”, and was hailed as “quite possibly the most important poet since Bob Dylan”.
Young also continued recording as a solo artist, releasing 1970’s After The Gold Rush and 1972’s Harvest which both became bestsellers and were immediately recognized as classics. Harvest was the biggest-selling album of 1972, and the cut “Heart of Gold” remains the most successful single of Young’s career.
Between 1972 and 1977, Young released a sequence of 6 impressive introspective albums: Journey Through The Past, Time Fades Away, On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night, Zuma, and American stars ‘n Bars). Haunting loss was reflected in many of his songs during this period, most obviously because of the devastating drug-related deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry.
In 1977, the release of a double-album retrospective, Decade, attested to Young's importance in rock history. He closed the seventies on a peak with the lighthearted, philosophical Comes a Time, and a half-acoustic, half-electric album, Rust Never Sleeps. The live album, Live Rust, and the generally poorly received concert film Rust Never Sleeps resulted from the 1978 tour for the album.
Depending on one's perspective, Young either lost focus in the early- to mid-eighties or deserves credit as an ambitious explorer. Jumping wildly between genres, he opened the decade with the country-tinged Hawks & Doves, moved into Kraftwerk-like electronic sounds with Trans and retro-rockabilly on Everybody's Rockin', but still tore it up with Crazy Horse on Re-act-or and on 1987's Life. The next year, Young headed in a soulful direction with a new band, the Bluenotes, on This Note's for You. The title track won MTV's Video of the Year award, despite the fact that the clip was banned by the network — lampooning the commercial state of rock, the video shows a Michael Jackson look-alike's hair catching fire and being extinguished with Pepsi by a Whitney Houston look-alike.
After all the experimentation, 1989 found Young going back to his roots. Freedom, powered by the single "Rockin' in the Free World," became his most critically lauded album since Rust Never Sleeps, and its follow-up, 1990's Ragged Glory (recorded with Crazy Horse), was similarly celebrated.
Since then, Young has been on a streak of critical and commercial success unfamiliar to his peers, making music in his third decade even more distinguished than that in his first. His rediscovery of electric guitar feedback gave way to the emergence of the American alternative scene, earning him the nickname "The Godfather of Grunge." Young cemented that description with his 1995 collaboration with Pearl Jam, Mirror Ball, for which he scored a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Young composed the music to Jim Jarmusch's film Dead Man, and followed the early 1996 release of that soundtrack with Broken Arrow, a new studio effort with Crazy Horse that gained a Grammy nod for Best Rock Album. A summer tour, which spawned a double live album, titled Year of the Horse, was filmed by Jarmusch for a 1997 documentary of the same name. The year 1999 saw Neil collaborating once again with Crosby, Stills & Nash on Looking Back. Into the new millenium & Neil has produced a great effort in Silver & Gold. This release sees Neil gathering together old friends such Spooner Oldham, "Duck" Dunn and Jim Keltner, along with longtime associate Ben Keith, (who co-produced the record). The result is a relaxed, “casual journey through some heartfelt and pensive songs that find Young in both a thankful and inquisitive mood”. Comparisons will most certainly be made with Harvest and Harvest Moon because of the acoustic tone. This Neil Young is older, wiser, more reflective and less judgmental. Neil's 2000 summer tour across the U.S.A on the "Music In Head" tour with the "Friends & Relatives " culminated in a live album named Road Rock. In addition to Neil's regular line-up of musicians, he also had wife Pegi & half sister Astrid on vocals. Chrissie Hynde also provided guitar & vocals on "All Along The Watchtower" as The Pretenders were opening act on the Tour.
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