Grammy and Academy Award nominated Canadian rock musician/guitarist/songwriter Neil Young was shot to fame in the late 1960s and 1970s as the folk rocker who recorded such hits as “Cinnamon Girl” (1970), “Heart of Gold” (1972), "Old Man" (1972) and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” (1979). His later hits include “Rockin in the Free World” (1989), “Harvest Moon” (1993) and "Philadelphia" (1994; a soundtrack to Jonathan Demme's Oscar-nominated film of the same name).
With a career that spans more than three decades, Young has released 30 studio albums, including the multi-platinum "After the Gold Rush" (1970), "Harvest" (1972) and "Harvest Moon" (1992). Young, who performed with the bands "Buffalo Springfield," "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young," "Crazy Horse" and "The Stills-Young Band," also released the infamous "Ditch Trilogy" (also known as the "Doom Trilogy" or the "Depression Trilogy"), a trio of rock albums that includes "Time Fades Away" (1973), "On the Beach" (1974) and "Tonight's the Night" (1975).
“My music isn't anything but me. It has jazz in it and rock'n'roll and it has an urgency to it.” Neil Young
He also directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including “Journey Through the Past” (1973), “Rust Never Sleeps” (1979), “Human Highway” (1982), “Greendale” (2003) and “CSNY Déjà Vu” (2008).
One of the most respected and prolific rock/folk guitarists of the late 20th century, Young was voted the 34th “Greatest Artist of All Time in Rock 'n' Roll” by Rolling Stone and ranked number 9 on "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time list" in the June 1996 issue of Mojo magazine. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as a member of “Buffalo Springfield.”
On a more personal note, this 6' renegade rock star lived with actress Carrie Snodgress from 1971 to 1975 and has one son with her. He has long been married to Pegi Morton, with whom he has two children.
Childhood and Family:
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on November 12, 1945, Neil Percival Young grew up in the small country town of Omemee, Ontario, where Scott Young Public School in Omemee is named after his father, sportswriter and novelist Scott Young (born on April 14, 1918; died on June 12, 2005; wrote "Neil & Me," 1984, about his relationship with his rock star son). His mother is Rassy Ragland Young. Young has one brother named Bob Young.
When Young was 12-years-old, his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he attended Kelvin High School after graduating from Earl Grey Junior High School.
From 1971 to 1975, Young lived with actress Carrie Snodgress (born on October 27, 1946; died on April 1, 2004, due to heart and liver failure) and their relationship produced one son, Zeke Young (diagnosed with cerebral palsy; born on September 8, 1972). On August 22, 1977, Young married his present wife, Pegi Morton. They have two children, son Ben Young (diagnosed with cerebral palsy; born in 1978) and daughter Amber Jean (born in 1984).
Young, who was diagnosed with diabetes as a child and fought polio at the age of 6, was hospitalized in April 2005 to remove a brain aneurysm. Young, who admitted in an interview that he was in the United States illegally until receiving a green card in 1970, now lives in Northern California. One of his major hobbies is collecting model trains.
Young is also an outspoken advocate for environmental issues and small farmers. He co-founded the benefit concert Farm Aid in 1985 and helped found The Bridge School in 1986. He also supported the Bridge School Benefit concerts with his wife Pegi.
“I'm not into organized religion. I'm into believing in a higher source of creation, realizing we're all just part of nature.” Neil Young
After the Gold Rush
“I totally have no other talent and I would be totally out of work if I did anything else.” Neil Young
While attending Earl Grey Junior High School, Neil Young formed his first band, “The Jades,” and met Ken Koblun. Koblun would later join him in “The Squires,” who had a local hit called "The Sultan." After leaving “The Squires,” Young worked folk clubs in Winnipeg.
In 1965, Young toured Canada as a solo artist and joined the Rick James-fronted “Mynah Birds” the following year. The band managed to secure a record deal with the Motown label, but soon disbanded while recording their first album as James was arrested for being AWOL from the army.
Young subsequently relocated to Los Angeles and formed the short-lived, but influential, folk rock group "Buffalo Springfield," alongside Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina. The band released a total of three albums. Their most famous song is "For What It's Worth," which was released as a single in January 1967 and later added to the re-release of the band's self-titled album that same year. The single peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Later, in 2004, this song was #63 on Rolling Stone's list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
After leaving "Buffalo Springfield," Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records and released a self-titled solo debut album on November 12, 1968. He followed it up with a second solo album with the backup band "Crazy Horse," "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" (1969), which contains the memorable songs "Cinnamon Girl," "Down by the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand." In 2003, the album ranked number 208 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Shortly after the release of "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," Young joined the group "Crosby, Stills, & Nash," who had already released one album as a trio. The group's name was augmented to "Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young" (CSNY). They debuted as a quartet in Chicago on August 16, 1969, and later performed at the famous Woodstock Festival. On March 11, 1970, the band released their first album as "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young," "Déjà Vu." It hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and spawned three Top 40 singles, "Teach Your Children," "Our House," and "Woodstock." While billed as a “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young” album, Neil Young does not appear on all of the tracks.
During this time, Young released his third album, "After the Gold Rush/” It peaked at #8 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart with the singles "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "When You Dance I Can Really Love" rising to # 33 and # 93 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100. He also wrote "Ohio," a protest song about the Kent State killings. It was released as a single by "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" and peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" split up, Young released the best-selling album "Harvest" on February 25, 1972. The album hit #1 on the Billboard Music Charts pop albums chart and spun off two hit singles, "Old Man," which peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100, and "Heart of Gold," which peaked at #1. The London Symphony Orchestra, Linda Ronstadt, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, David Crosby and James Taylor were also featured as guests on the album.
In the wake of his chart-topping best-seller "Harvest," Young released "Ditch Trilogy,” a trio of rock music albums that includes "Time Fades Away" (1973), "On the Beach" (1974), and "Tonight's the Night" (1975).
Meanwhile, Young wrote, directed (credited as Bernard Shakey), and starred in the independent musical documentary feature "Journey Through the Past" (1974). He also released a soundtrack album of the same name and was reunited with "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" in 1974 to release a compilation album titled "So Far," which went Gold and peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. The following year, Young released "Tonight's the Night," a pain-filled musical send-off for Crazy Horse's guitarist Danny Whitten and "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" roadie Bruce Berry, who both died of drug overdoses. That same year, he recorded "Zuma" with a new version of “Crazy Horse.”
“With 'Crazy Horse,' it's all one big, growing, smoldering sound and I'm part of it. It's like gliding, or some sort of natural surfing.” Neil Young
Young subsequently made a duet album with Stephen Stills, "Long May You Run" (1976). They began a tour in 1976 prior to the album's release, but Young dropped out of the tour when he grew bored with the project, forcing Stills to complete the concert tour solo. He also did an arena tour with “Crazy Horse” called "Rust Never Sleeps" (1979) and released a live album of same name, as well as a film version of the album under the same title. Additionally, he appeared in Martin Scorsese's documentary "The Last Waltz" (1978).
The 1980s saw Young co-directing (with Dean Stockwell) the comedy feature "Human Highway" (1982), an anti-nuke comedy in which he also acted alongside Russ Tamblyn, Dennis Hopper, and the post-punk and new wave band “Devo.” He also had a cameo as a truck driver in director Alan Rudolph's feature film "Made in Heaven" (1987; starring Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis) and portrayed a cycle shop owner in Steven Kovacs’ retro film "'68" (1987). Additionally, Young reassembled “Crazy Horse” for the first time since 1981 for a tour that produced the album "Life" (1987), worked again with "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" on the reunion album "American Dream" (1988), and went on to revitalize his solo career by releasing "Freedom" (1989).
Entering the 1990s, Young hosted "Farm Aid IV" (TNN), played the role of Rick in Alan Rudolph's romance film starring Tom Berenger, "Love at Large," and was reunited with “Crazy Horse” for the platinum selling "Ragged Glory. “ Young then wrote and performed the title track for Jonathan Demme's film "Philadelphia" (1993) and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Song. During the next few years, he borrowed “Pearl Jam” to back him on "Mirror Bell" (1995) and went with them on an acclaimed European tour. He was then cast as Boar Man in John Frankenheimer's "The Island of Dr. Moreau" (1996) and provided the soundtrack for Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" (1996). He then released the CD "Year of the Horse" (1997).
Hitting the new millennium, Young toured the United States and Canada with “Crosby, Stills and Nash.” Two years later, he released an anti-Bush rock opera titled "Greendale" (2002). The project resulted in a movie written and directed by Neil Young using his 'Bernard Shakey' pseudonym.
In 2004, Young released the compilation album "Greatest Hits." It debuted on the Billboard 200 album chart at #27 and remained on the chart for 17 weeks. The album was certified gold by the RIAA on January 23, 2006.
Young’s next albums were "Prairie Wind" (2005), which debuted on the Billboard 200 album chart at #11, and "Living with War" (2006), a Grammy and Juno Award-nominated studio album that criticizes the policies of the George W. Bush administration. The latter album was followed by the stripped-down version "Living with War: In the Beginning" (2006).
On October 23, 2007, Young released the studio album "Chrome Dreams II," a sequel to Young's shelved 1977 album "Chrome Dreams." It debuted on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart at number 11.
Recently, in 2008, Young was reunited with "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young" in the musical documentary "CSNY Déjà Vu," which he also directed and co-wrote (with Mike Cerre). It was shown as the closing film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. They also released a live album and soundtrack to the movie called "Déjà Vu Live."
Juno: Best Adult Alternative Album, “Prairie Wind,” 2006
Juno: Producer of the Year, 2006
MTV Video Music: Video of the Year, “This Note's For You,” 1989
Genie: Best Song, “Silence of the North,” 1982