Neil Young is a towering figure in modern music. His vast catalogue of work, driven by distinctive guitar sound, deeply personal lyrics and signature high-tenor singing voice, continues to be a tremendous influence on musicians the world over.
He released his first album in 1968 and has since forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, spanning 36 studio albums and more than 45 years, with a continuous and uncompromising exploration of musical styles. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes Young as “one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers.” He was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, first as a solo artist in 1995, and second as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.
Young was born in Toronto in 1945 to well-known Canadian sports writer Scott Young, but moved to Winnipeg with his mother when his parents divorced. Like most teenagers in the 1950s, Young was very influenced by the music coming out of the U.S. and decided to pick up a guitar.
Between late 1960 and 1966 he was a roving member of such bands as the Jades, the Esquires, the Stardusters, the Classics, several different versions of the Squires, the High Flying Birds, and several versions of 4 To Go. In 1963 he recorded two songs, “The Sultan” and “Aurora,” with the Squires, who played coffee houses in the Winnipeg area. One of those gigs was opening for the Au Go Go Singers, which featured two musicians with whom Young would later form pivotal relationships – Stephen Stills and Richie Furay.
Young moved back to Toronto after the Squires split up in 1965, and formed a band, the Mynah Birds, with bassist Bruce Palmer. They played around the Yorkville area of Toronto for a while, and recorded some material, but greater fame in the U.S. beckoned. They moved to L.A. in late 1965 and formed Buffalo Springfield, which featured Young (vocals, piano, lead guitar), Stills (vocals, second lead guitar), Furay (vocals, rhythm guitar), Palmer (bass), and Dewey Martin (vocals, drums).
Buffalo Springfield toured the area for a while, and recorded their first album in the fall of 1966. Between that time and May 1968, they recorded two more albums, and did three more cross-country tours before the band split up in 1968.
After doing a solo tour of Canada in early 1969 following the release of his first solo album, Young met a band called the Rockets that featured, among others, Danny Whitten (guitar), Billy Talbot (bass) and Ralph Molina (drums). He convinced the three to join him, and together they formed Crazy Horse. Their first album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was released in May 1969 and contained the massive hit singles “Cowgirl In The Sand,” “Down By The River” and “Cinnamon Girl.”
By 1969, Crosby Stills and Nash invited Stills’ old friend Young to join their already popular trio, and the super group, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) was born. CSNY was an informal set-up that allowed the four singers to individually pursue other projects. Young wasted no time in his pursuits: a career both vast and prolific, with commercially and critically successful tours and albums solo – both with Crazy Horse and CSNY.
An ardent social activist, Young has been involved in numerous charitable initiatives, including the co-founding of Farm Aid, the organization that works to increase awareness of the importance of family farms, in 1985. That same year he came home to Toronto to participate in Canada’s contribution to Ethiopian famine relief, “Tears Are Not Enough” by Northern Lights, which was eventually included on the American LP, “We Are The World” by USA For Africa.
In the 1990s Young continued to produce a diverse array of music, typically to critical acclaim. It was noted at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 that he has “avoided sticking to one style for very long, the unifying factors throughout [his] peripatetic musical journey have been his unmistakable voice, his raw and expressive guitar playing, and his consummate song-writing skill.”
Young’s prolific output continues well into the 21st Century. He released his thirty-fifth studio album, Storytone, in 2014, followed the next year by The Monsanto Years, a collaboration with Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah, a concept album that criticizes agri-business, Monsanto.
Inducted into Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
1995 & 1997
Has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: first in 1995 for his solo work and in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield.
Artist of the Year by the American Music Association.
Wins Artist of the Year, Adult Alternative Album of the Year, and the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award at The 2011 JUNO Awards.