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Neil Young: The Godfather of Grunge

Full Name Neil Percival Young
Age 77
Birthday November 12, 1945
Birth Sign Scorpio
Born Toronto, Canada
Spouse Married Pegi Young
Height 6′ 0′′
Net Worth $80 million
Social


Neil Young is a legendary Canadian-American singer-songwriter who has been a major force in rock music for over 50 years. With his signature nasal voice and confessional lyrical style, Young has created some of the most memorable songs of the late 20th century. Often dubbed "the Godfather of Grunge," his influence spans across multiple genres and generations of musicians.

Early Life and Career Beginnings in Canada

Neil Percival Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His father Scott was a renowned Canadian sportswriter and novelist. Due to his parent‘s divorce when he was young, Neil split time growing up between Winnipeg and Omemee, Ontario.

Young got his start in music at age 13 playing with various bands in Winnipeg. In 1960, Neil formed his first real band The Squires with friends Ken Koblun, Jeff Wuckert and Bill Edmondson. They had a local hit with Young‘s first song “The Sultan” in 1963.

After The Squires broke up, Young dropped out of high school and moved to Toronto to pursue a professional music career. There he connected with musician Stephen Stills and formed the seminal band The Mynah Birds. They were signed to Motown Records but their album was never released after Young was arrested for being AWOL from the military reserve.

Moving to Los Angeles

After his brief jail stint, Young headed west to Los Angeles in 1966. There he reunited with Stephen Stills and connected with musicians Richie Furay and Dewey Martin to form the band Buffalo Springfield. Their sound combined rock, country and folk influences that would lay the groundwork for Young‘s future solo success.

The band had a hit right out of the gate in 1967 with the Young-penned songs “For What It‘s Worth” and “Mr. Soul.” However, tensions and infighting led Buffalo Springfield to split up by 1968 after just three albums. During this time, Young also began collaborating with artists like Linda Ronstadt and Joni Mitchell.

Going Solo and Joining Crosby, Stills & Nash

Neil officially launched his solo career in 1969 with his self-titled debut album. The album featured the minor hit “The Loner” as well as deeper cuts like “The Old Laughing Lady” that showed Young‘s introspective folk sensibilities.

Over the next two years, Neil Young released three more solo records – "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," "After the Gold Rush," and "Harvest." This incredibly prolific period birthed many of Young‘s most revered songs like "Cinnamon Girl," "Southern Man," and his lone #1 single – "Heart of Gold."

During this time, Young also periodically collaborated with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Together they formed the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, releasing two studio albums – "Déjà Vu" in 1970 and "Four Way Street" in 1971. However, creative tensions led Young to again focus on his solo work.

The Middle Period

The mid 1970s saw Neil Young release a series of eclectic albums as he explored a range of styles. In 1972, he put out the mellow country-tinged Harvest Moon featuring the hit "Heart of Gold." 1974 brought the darker folk rock sounds of On the Beach. And Young embraced the synth-heavy electronic vibe on 1982‘s Trans.

During this period, Young also delved deeper into social commentary with records like the environmentally conscious "After the Gold Rush" (1970) and the political "Living with War" (2006). And he continued periodically collaborating with Crosby, Stills & Nash such as on their 1988 comeback hit "American Dream."

Godfather of Grunge

In the late 1980s, Neil returned to his hard rockin‘ roots with albums like Freedom and Ragged Glory. His raw, garage band sound on these records profoundly influenced the burgeoning grunge movement coming out of Seattle.

Young‘s influence was so critical that Kurt Cobain wore a Neil Young t-shirt for Nirvana‘s famous MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. Young even ended up recording an album with Pearl Jam called Mirror Ball in 1995. For these reasons, Young earned the moniker the "Godfather of Grunge."

Later Years

Even after 50 years in the business, Neil Young has maintained an incredible output of new music in the 2000s and 2010s. He has put out over a dozen albums covering genres like rock, folk, blues and country.

Some highlights include scoring the Jonathan Demme concert film Neil Young: Heart of Gold in 2006, releasing his 34th studio album Peace Trail in 2016, and reuniting Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for only the second time in 27 years back in 2013.

Now in his mid-70s, Young shows no signs of slowing down. He continues touring extensively and has hinted at several archival project releases coming down the pike for his passionate fanbase.

Why We Love Neil Young

As a longtime Neil Young fan, here are just a few of the reasons I admiration him so much:

His Authenticity: Throughout his 5+ decade career, Neil Young has always stayed true to himself no matter current musical trends. He writes honest songs directly from the heart.

His Activism: Young has advocated for various causes he believes in over the years like environmentalism, pacifism, support for family farmers and opposition to corporatism. His music reflects his values.

His Artistic Freedom: Young has never been afraid to take risks and explore new musical directions from country to synth pop. He follows his muse wherever it leads.

His Influence: From Dylan to Cobain, Young‘s unique style left an indelible stamp on fellow musicians. His presence looms large across the rock landscape.

His Longevity: With over 50 studio albums under his belt, Young has maintained an incredible output. His music remains relevant across generations.

5 Lesser Known Neil Young Facts

  • Young narrowly avoided being a passenger on the doomed 1970 chartered flight that killed most of the members of Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.
  • In 1975, Neil Young switched record labels from Reprise to Geffen after a royalty dispute with label head David Geffen.
  • Young owns one of the largest model train collections in the world, spanning over 2500 feet of track.
  • In 1986, Young made a cameo appearance in the Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School.
  • Neil has two sons: Zeke, with actress Carrie Snodgress, and Ben with wife Pegi Young. Both have followed in his musical footsteps.

Neil Young‘s Enduring Legacy

Very few musicians have demonstrated the longevity, diversity and influence of Neil Young. He has forged his own path – singing about topics that matter with an unvarnished honesty. Young‘s integrity persists whether crafting acoustic folk ballads, electronic new wave, or earth-shaking grunge.

For over 50 years, Young has provided the soundtrack for multiple generations. Even at 77, the Godfather of Grunge continues growing his legacy one gnarly guitar solo at a time. When the history books are written, Neil Young will have earned his place among the most brilliant and beloved singer-songwriters of all time.