Neil Young: The Last American Hero,” Rolling Stone, Feb. 8, 1979
Neil Young was born 75 years ago today in Toronto, Canada. Unlike one of his better-known lyrics, he has neither burnt out nor faded away.
That does not mean that, in his creative restlessness, he hasn’t unsettled either bandmates or audiences. After all, this is the musician who, after the enormous success of his Harvest LP in 1972, would later feel compelled to write: “ ‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.”
(For an interesting take on the resulting “Ditch Trilogy” of albums, see this fine February 2018 post on the blog for Pandora from Eric Shea.)
You can often guess at how well a singer-songwriter’s popularity will endure by the number of other artists who have covered his songs. In this regard, Young stands among the best, with Johnny Cash, Patti Smith, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Roxy Music, The Pretenders, Boz Scaggs, The Everly Brothers, Gillian Welch, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Nicolette Larson, Radiohead, and Bob Dylan all performing his work.
Through it all, he remains uncompromising and indomitable. Long may he run!
(Photo of Neil Young taken in concert Nov. 9, 1976, in Austin, Texas, by Mark Estabrook.)