Neil Young is one of the most influential and prolific singer-songwriters of all time. He has been making music for over 50 years, spanning genres from folk to rock to grunge. He has also been a vocal advocate for social and environmental causes, using his songs as a platform to express his views and inspire others.
But what are his best songs? This is not an easy question to answer, as Young has a vast and diverse catalog of over 1,000 songs. However, based on popularity, critical acclaim and personal preference, we have compiled a list of the top 10 Neil Young songs of all time.
Neil Young Top 10 Songs
10. Cinnamon Girl
This song is the opening track of Young’s 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, his first with his backing band Crazy Horse. It is a hard-rocking tune with a catchy riff and a distorted guitar solo. The lyrics are vague and mysterious, but Young has said that the song is about a group of women he met in Los Angeles who were into drugs and witchcraft. The song was also covered by many artists, including Smashing Pumpkins, Type O Negative and Lana Del Rey.
This song is a protest anthem that Young wrote in response to the Kent State shootings of 1970, when four students were killed by the National Guard during an anti-war demonstration. Young was so moved by the news that he wrote the song in a few hours and recorded it with Crosby, Stills and Nash the next day. The song features a powerful chorus of “Four dead in Ohio” and a scathing indictment of President Nixon and his administration. The song was banned by some radio stations, but it became a rallying cry for the anti-war movement.
8. Harvest Moon
This song is the title track of Young’s 1992 album Harvest Moon, which was seen as a sequel to his 1972 album Harvest. It is a gentle and romantic ballad that celebrates Young’s relationship with his wife Pegi, who also sings backup vocals on the song. The song features acoustic guitar, brushed drums, harmonica and a subtle string arrangement. The song was also accompanied by a music video that shows Young and Pegi dancing in a country bar.
7. Like A Hurricane
This song is one of Young’s most epic and intense songs, featuring a long and expressive guitar solo that showcases his signature style of feedback and distortion. The song was inspired by an encounter Young had with a woman in a bar in California, who he felt an instant attraction to but never saw again. The song compares his feelings to being caught in a hurricane, with lyrics like “You are like a hurricane / There’s calm in your eye / And I’m getting blown away”. The song was first released on Young’s 1977 album American Stars ‘n Bars, but it has been performed live many times by Young and other artists.
6. Heart Of Gold
This song is Young’s only number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and one of his most popular and recognizable songs. It is a simple and sincere folk song that features acoustic guitar, harmonica and backup vocals by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. The song expresses Young’s search for love and meaning in life, with lyrics like “I’ve been to Hollywood / I’ve been to Redwood / I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold”. The song was also featured on the soundtrack of the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain.
5. The Needle And The Damage Done
This song is a haunting and heartbreaking song that Young wrote about the heroin addiction and death of his friend and bandmate Danny Whitten, who played guitar in Crazy Horse. The song is a solo acoustic performance that Young recorded live at UCLA in 1971, before Whitten’s death. The song captures Young’s pain and anger at the drug that destroyed his friend’s life, with lyrics like “I’ve seen the needle / And the damage done / A little part of it in everyone / But every junkie’s like a setting sun”. The song was released on Young’s 1972 album Harvest.
4. Rockin’ In The Free World
This song is one of Young’s most anthemic and energetic songs, featuring a driving rock beat and a catchy chorus that invites listeners to join him in “rockin’ in the free world”. However, the song is also a sarcastic and cynical commentary on the state of America in the late 1980s, under President George H.W. Bush. The song criticizes the social problems of poverty, homelessness, drug abuse and environmental degradation, with lyrics like “There’s a lot of people sayin’ / We’d be better off dead / Don’t feel like Satan / But I am to them”. The song was released on Young’s 1989 album Freedom, and it has been used by many politicians and activists as a rallying song, sometimes without Young’s approval.
3. Old Man
This song is one of Young’s most personal and emotional songs, inspired by his purchase of a ranch in California in 1970. The song is a conversation between Young and the old man who worked on the ranch, who Young felt a connection with despite their age difference. The song features acoustic guitar, banjo, pedal steel guitar and backup vocals by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. The song expresses Young’s gratitude and curiosity towards the old man, with lyrics like “Old man look at my life / I’m a lot like you were”. The song was released on Young’s 1972 album Harvest.
2. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
This song is one of Young’s most iconic and influential songs, featuring a heavy rock sound and a memorable riff. The song is a tribute to rock and roll and its power to inspire and endure, with lyrics like “Rock and roll can never die / There’s more to the picture / Than meets the eye”. The song also references the death of Elvis Presley and the rise of punk rock, with lyrics like “The king is gone but he’s not forgotten / This is the story of Johnny Rotten”. The song was released on Young’s 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps, and it was famously quoted by Kurt Cobain in his suicide note.
This song is one of Young’s most beautiful and nostalgic songs, featuring a dreamy and melancholic melody and harmony vocals by Crosby, Stills and Nash. The song is about Young’s childhood memories of growing up in Ontario, Canada, and his longing for his hometown. The song features piano, organ, electric guitar and harmonica. The song evokes a sense of nostalgia and sadness, with lyrics like “There is a town in north Ontario / With dream comfort memory to spare / And in my mind I still need a place to go / All my changes were there”. The song was released on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1970 album Déjà Vu.
These are our picks for the top 10 Neil Young songs of all time. Of course, there are many more great songs by Young that we could not include in this list, such as “After The Gold Rush”, “Cortez The Killer”, “Southern Man”, “Powderfinger” and “Unknown Legend”. We encourage you to explore Young’s rich and diverse discography and discover your own favorites.
Most Asked Questions And Answers
Q: When was Neil Young born?
A: Neil Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Q: What are Neil Young’s musical influences? A: Neil Young has cited many musical influences, including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and Joni Mitchell.
Q: What are Neil Young’s musical genres? A: Neil Young has experimented with many musical genres, including folk, rock, country, blues, grunge, hard rock, electronic and experimental.
Q: What are Neil Young’s musical instruments? A: Neil Young plays many musical instruments, including guitar, harmonica, piano, organ, banjo, ukulele and synthesizer.
Q: What are Neil Young’s musical awards? A: Neil Young has won many musical awards, including two Grammy Awards (for Best Rock Song for “Angry World” in 2011 and Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package for Archives Vol. 1 (1963–1972) in 2010), three Juno Awards (for Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982, Artist of the Year in 2001 and Adult Alternative Album of the Year for Le Noise in 2011), two MTV Video Music Awards (for Best Video from a Film for “Dead Man” in 1996 and Video Vanguard Award in 1994), one Academy Award nomination (for Best Original Song for “Philadelphia” in 1994) and one Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction (as a solo artist in 1995).
Q: What are Neil Young’s musical collaborations?
A: Neil Young has collaborated with many musicians throughout his career, including Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Crazy Horse (his most frequent backing band), Buffalo Springfield (his first band), Promise of the Real (his current backing band), Pearl Jam (who backed him on his album Mirror Ball in 1995), Booker T. & the M.G.’s (who backed him on his tour in 1993), Emmylou Harris (who sang backup vocals on his album