Neil Young Biography
Neil Percival Young OM (born November 12, 1945, Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist who grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His work is characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and an almost instantly recognizable 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 lynchpins of a sometimes ragged, sometimes polished, yet consistently evocative sound. In more recent years, Young has started to adopt elements from newer styles of music, such as industrial and grunge, the latter of which was profoundly influenced by his own style of playing.
Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues and electronica throughout a varied career, his most accessible and best known work generally falls into either of two distinct styles: acoustic, country-tinged folk rock, as heard in songs such as "Heart of Gold", "Harvest Moon" and "Old Man," and crunchy, electric hard rock, in songs like "Cinnamon Girl", "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)."
Young first came to prominence as a member of the folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in the mid-1960s and then as a solo performer backed by the band Crazy Horse. He reached his commercial peak during the singer-songwriter boom of the early 1970s with the albums After the Gold Rush and Harvest as well as with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He has long been distrustful of commercial management in the music business, and has at times created highly accessible and durable popular music while at other times has indulged in outlandish and uncompromising experiments that have left audiences, critics, and—in one notable case—his record label baffled.
Young has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2000, the cable music channel VH1 ranked Young 30th on a list of the Top 100 Artists of Rock and Roll. He was also 39th on VH1's list of Top 100 Hard Rock Artists.
Young has directed or co-directed a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), and Greendale (2003).
He is also an outspoken advocate for environmental issues and small farmers, having co-founded the benefit concert Farm Aid, and in 1986 helped found The Bridge School together with his wife Pegi.
Young reportedly keeps every car he has ever owned. (Except the original Mort, a hearse that broke down in Blind River, Ontario, and is immortalized in the Young song "Long May You Run").
Young was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: first in 1995 for his solo work by Eddie Vedder and again in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield.
He has also directed three movies under his pseudonym Bernard Shakey, and released them through his own Shakey Pictures imprint: Journey Through the Past (1973), Human Highway (1982) (starring new wave band Devo), and Greendale (2003). The bonus DVDs included in both versions of Greendale and in Prairie Wind are also directed by Young under the Bernard Shakey alias, and all of Young's home video and DVD releases have been co-released under the Shakey Pictures imprint.
As one of the founders of Farm Aid, he remains on their board of directors. For one weekend each October, in Mountain View, California, he and his wife host the Bridge School Concerts, which have been drawing international talent and sell-out crowds for nearly two decades with some of the biggest names in rock having performed at the event including Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, The Who, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth and Sir Paul McCartney. The concerts are a benefit for the Bridge School, which develops and uses advanced technologies to aid in the instruction of children with disabilities. Young's involvement stems at least partially from the fact that both of his sons have cerebral palsy and his daughter, like Young himself, has epilepsy.
Young was nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for his song "Philadelphia" from the film Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen ended up winning the award for his song "Streets of Philadelphia" from the same film). In his acceptance speech, Springsteen said that "the award really deserved to be shared by the other nominee's song." That same night, Tom Hanks accepted the Oscar for Best Actor and gave credit for his inspiration to the song "Philadelphia".
Young owns Vapor Records, who have signed such artists as Jonathan Richman, Tegan and Sara and Catatonia. Since 1995 he has been part owner of Lionel, LLC, a company that makes toy trains and railroads.
In a "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" list in the June 1996 issue of Mojo magazine, Young was ranked number 9.
In 2000, Young was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
In 2001, Young was awarded the Spirit of Liberty award from the civil liberties group People for the American Way.
In 1992, Neil Young Received a honorary Doctorate of Music from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
On May 27th, 2006, Neil Young and his wife Pegi received Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters from San Francisco State University for their creation of the Bridge School.
In a "Greatest Living Songwriters" list in 2006 by Paste Magazine Young was ranked number 2 behind Bob Dylan.
Neil Young is a collector of second-hand guitars, but in recording and performing, he frequently uses just a few instruments. As explained by his longtime guitar technician Larry Cragg in the film Neil Young: Heart of Gold, they include: