Neil Percival Young, a Canadian and American singer and songwriter, is known for his critically acclaimed albums, often with backing by the band Crazy Horse. Born in Toronto, Canada, Young began his music career in the 1960s and moved to Los Angeles, joining the folk-rock group Buffalo Springfield. He has released critically acclaimed albums such as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969), After the Gold Rush (1970), Harvest (1972), On the Beach (1974), and Rust Never Sleeps (1979). Young also played piano and harmonica on many albums, often combining folk, rock, country, and other musical genres. His often distorted electric guitar playing earned him the nickname “Godfather of Grunge” and led to his 1995 album Mirror Ball with Pearl Jam.
Young has directed or co-directed films using the pseudonym “Bernard Shakey”, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), Greendale (2003), CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008), and Harvest Time (2022). He has received several Grammy and Juno Awards, and is the seventh most celebrated artist in popular music history. 21 of his albums and singles have been certified Gold and Platinum in the U.S. by RIAA certification.
Young’s early career began in Fort Rouge, Winnipeg, where he formed the Jades and met Ken Koblun. He later played in several instrumental rock bands before dropping out of school to pursue a musical career. In 1966, he joined the Rick James-fronted Mynah Birds, which secured a record deal with Motown label. After Buffalo Springfield’s breakup, Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records, home of Joni Mitchell.
Neil Young, a renowned musician, formed The Santa Monica Flyers in 1973 with Crazy Horse’s rhythm section and Nils Lofgren on guitar and piano. Young created the album Tonight’s the Night in 1975 as a result of Whitten and Bruce Berry’s drug-related deaths. The album’s dark tone and rawness led Reprise to delay its release, and Young had to pressure them for two years before they would do so. After completing On the Beach, Young reunited with Harvest producer Elliot Mazer to record another acoustic album, Homegrown, which was later replaced with Tonight’s the Night.
In 1975, Young reformed Crazy Horse with Frank Sampedro on guitar for his eighth album, Zuma, which dealt with failed relationships and the theme of love lost. In 1976, Young performed with Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell in The Last Waltz. In 1977, he released the compilation Decade, and in 1977, he formed The Ducks with Jeff Blackburn, Bob Mosley, and John Craviotto. In April 2023, he officially released a double album of songs from the band’s performances and sessions at a local recording studio, titled High Flyin’.
In 1978, Young spent $3,000,000 on production for his film Human Highway, which took its name from a song featured on Comes a Time. In 1978, he embarked on the Rust Never Sleeps tour, playing a wealth of new material with electric sets influenced by punk rock zeitgeists. His last two albums for Geffen were more conventional in the genre, although they incorporated production techniques like synthesisers and echoing drums.
In 1989, Young’s 1989 single “Rockin’ in the Free World” hit No. 2 on the US mainstream rock charts, and his 1990 album Ragged Glory continued this distortion-heavy aesthetic. His 1992 album Harvest Moon marked an abrupt return to the country and folk-rock stylings of Harvest.