Neil Young Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Neil Young 1945–

Canadian songwriter and musician.

Neil Young has been a major force in rock and roll since the debut of the Buffalo Springfield in 1966. Before that he had toured small clubs in Canada as a folk singer. With Springfield, Young emerged as an imaginative lyricist and guitar player. After the break up of the Buffalo Springfield, Young began preparing for a solo career. In 1969, he released Neil Young, which disappointed those who knew his work from the Buffalo Springfield days. Young then met a group of musicians known as the Rockets. Renamed Crazy Horse, they played with Young on his next album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Although better than the first album, it was not very successful commercially. Young then joined Crosby, Stills & Nash, at Stephen Stills's request. Young's music, basically a different style from CS&N's, added a new dimension to their sound.

After the Goldrush was released in 1970, and is generally conceded to be Young's finest work. Suggested by many reviewers for album of the year, After the Goldrush was rock and roll with a touch of folk music and poetic lyrics. With the works after this album, however, Young's popularity and commercial success suffered a definite drop. Young ventured into filmmaking with his retrospective Journey through the Past. The sound-track, released under the same title, was somewhat more successful than the film. Tonight's the Night is a starkly depressing album, expressing Young's bitterness over the drug-induced deaths of two friends and coworkers.

Yet there were still many strong Young followers. As Young expressed it: "Somehow, by doing what I wanted to do, I manage to give people what they don't want to hear and they still come back." Young's music is influenced by his own experiences, and because his lyrics often mirror his life and career, many of his followers picture him as a melancholy loner. Young feels the phrase, "rust never sleeps," the title of his latest movie effort, reflects his whole career—always being beyond the latest release, trying to keep a good thing from going bad. For Neil Young, constant change and keeping one step ahead of his public is the essence of his work.