Neil Young Biography

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Birth Name: Neil Percival Young
Born: 1945/11/12
Birth Place: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Years Active: 1960–present
Genres: Rock, Folk Rock, Hard Rock, Country Rock


Neil Percival Young, OC, OM (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, filmmaker and activist. Young began performing as a solo artist in Canada in 1960, before moving to California in 1966, where he co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield along with Stephen Stills, and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash as a fourth member in 1969. He then forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, releasing his first album in 1968. Young's work is characterized by his distinctive guitar play and signature falsetto/tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments, including piano, harpsichord and harmonica, his clawhammer acoustic guitar and often idiosyncratic electric guitar playing are the defining characteristics of a sometimes ragged, sometimes melodic sound.

His self-titled debut solo album was released in 1968 following his departure from the band Buffalo Springfield.

His first album with backing band Crazy Horse, 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” peaked at #34 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and was certified platinum by the RIAA. The album contained three songs that became standards in his performance repertoire, “Cinnamon Girl,” “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

“After the Gold Rush,” released in 1970 on Reprise Records, peaked at #8 on the Billboard 200. The two singles taken from the album, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” made it to #33 and #93 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

Released in 1972 on Reprise Records, “Harvest” topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks, and spawned two hit singles, “Old Man,” which peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Heart of Gold,” which peaked at #1. It featured a live version of “The Needle and the Damage Done” and was the best-selling album of 1972 having been certified 4x platinum.

In the second half of 1973, Young formed The Santa Monica Flyers, with Crazy Horse's rhythm section augmented by Nils Lofgren on guitar. Deeply affected by the drug-induced deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Young recorded “Tonight's the Night.” Released in 1975, it peaked at #25 on the Billboard 200. The title track mentions Berry by name, while Whitten's guitar and vocal work highlighted, “Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown.”

Young reformed Crazy Horse with Frank Sampedro on guitar as his backup band for “Zuma,” which was released in 1975. Many of the songs are overtly concerned with failed relationships, and even the epic “Cortez the Killer,” outwardly a retelling of the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the viewpoint of the Aztecs, can be seen as an allegory of love lost.

“American Stars 'N Bars” released in 1977 contained two songs originally recorded for the unreleased “Homegrown” album, “Homegrown” and “Star of Bethlehem,” as well as newer material, including the future concert staple “Like A Hurricane.”

His 1978 album, “Comes a Time,” included harmony vocals from Nicolette Larson on several songs. The single “Four Strong Winds” was the only to chart.

“Rust Never Sleeps,” released in 1979, was half acoustic and half electric, opening and closing with different versions of the same song, “Hey Hey, My My.”

In 1980 Young released “Hawks & Doves,” a short record pieced together from sessions going back to 1974. 1981's “Re-ac-tor,” an electric album recorded with Crazy Horse, also included material from the 1970s. The 1982 album “Trans,” which incorporated vocoders, synthesizers, and electronic beats, was Young's first for new label Geffen Records and represented a distinct stylistic departure.

Young's next album, 1983's “Everybody's Rockin',” included several rockabilly covers and clocked in at less than twenty-five minutes in length.

Young recorded 1986's “Landing on Water” without Crazy Horse, but reunited with the band for the subsequent year-long tour and final Geffen album, “Life,” which emerged in 1987. The title track of 1988's “This Note's For You” became Young's first hit single of the decade.

Young's 1989 single “Rockin' in the Free World,” which hit #2 on the Hot 100, and accompanying album, “Freedom,” rocketed him back into the popular consciousness after a decade of sometimes-difficult genre experiments.

1992's “Harvest Moon” marked an abrupt return to the country and folk-rock stylings of “Harves” and reunited him with some of the musicians from that album, including singers Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. The title track was a minor hit and the record was well received by critics, winning the Juno Award for Album of the Year in 1994.

Young also contributed to Randy Bachman's nostalgic 1992 tune “Prairie Town,” and garnered a 1993 Academy Award nomination for his song “Philadelphia,” from the soundtrack of the Jonathan Demme movie of the same name.

In November 2001, Neil Young released a song about the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 called "Let's Roll." The song was later released on his 2002 album “Are You Passionate?”

In 2003, Young released “Greendale,” a concept album recorded with Crazy Horse members Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina. The songs loosely revolved around the murder of a police officer in a small town in California and its effects on the town's inhabitants. Young's renewed activism manifested itself in the 2006 album “Living With War,” which was hastily recorded and released in less than a month. The album's overtly political songs rebuked U.S. President George W. Bush and the War in Iraq and included the provocatively titled “Let's Impeach the President.”

Young released “Le Noise” produced by Daniel Lanois, in 2010. The track “Angry World” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance category. The album reached #14 on the Billboard 200.

As one of the original founders of Farm Aid, he remains an active member of the board of directors. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. His first induction came in 1995 for his solo work, with an induction speech given by Eddie Vedder and again in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982. Young was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year in 2010.




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