From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Neil Percival Young (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and film director. Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues, and electronic music throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into either of two distinct styles: folk-esque acoustic rock ("Heart of Gold", "Harvest Moon" and "Old Man") and electric-charged hard rock (like "Cinnamon Girl", "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"). In recent years, Young has adopted elements from newer styles like industrial, alternative country and grunge. Young's profound influence on the latter caused some to dub him "the Godfather of Grunge".
Influence, importance and inspiration
Neil Young has been an undeniably important artist in the history of American, Canadian and worldwide popular music and remains a distinct influence upon other recording artists. Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" was written in response to two of Neil Young's songs "Southern Man" and "Alabama". "Ohio" which Young recorded with Crosby, Stills and Nash, was a recollection of the tragic events that transpired at Kent State University in May 1970. Young's willingness to be politically outspoken and socially conscious allowed him to influence such important artists such as Phish, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. Neil Young is referred to as "the Godfather of Grunge" because of the influence he had on Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder and the entire grunge movement. Kurt Cobain quoted Neil Young in his suicide note, using the line “It's better to burn out, than to fade away” from Young’s song "My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)". Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam inducted Neil Young into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, citing him as a huge influence. He has also been a big influence on experimental rock acts like Sonic Youth and Radiohead. Dave Matthews lists Neil Young as one of his favorite and most inspirational songwriters and covers his songs on occasion. The British Indie act The Bluetones named their number one debut album after the song 'Expecting to Fly' (written by Young when still with Buffalo Springfield) and covered the song on their recent UK tour. Young's influence, importance and inspiration within the music scene derive in part from his longevity because of a career spanning more than four decades.
While in Winnipeg on November 2, 2008 during the Canadian leg of his tour, Bob Dylan visited Young's former home in River Heights, where Neil spent some of his teenage years. Dylan was interested in seeing the room where some of Neil's first songs were composed.
Young's work is characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and signature nasal tenor (and frequently alto) singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments—including piano and harmonica—his style of hammer-on acoustic guitar and often idiosyncratic soloing on electric guitar are the linchpins of a sometimes ragged, sometimes polished, yet consistently evocative sound. Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues, and electronica throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into either of two distinct styles: folk-esque acoustic rock (as heard in songs such as "Heart of Gold" , "Harvest Moon" and "Old Man") and electric-charged hard rock (in songs like "Cinnamon Girl", "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"). In more recent years, Young has started to adopt elements from newer styles of music, such as industrial, alternative country and grunge, the latter of which was profoundly influenced by his own style of playing, often bringing him the title of "the godfather of grunge".
- Cortez the Killer - Neil Young