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A musician’s musician: Neil Young’s catalogue of influence
By
Editorial Staff

Published

September 20, 2017

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Get full coverage of this week's Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductions at cbcmusic.ca/halloffame.


Neil Young is many things — a songwriter, poet, activist, pioneer of audio and clean energy technology — but above all, he is a musician’s musician.

The legendary Winnipeg artist has spent more than half a century inspiring musicians globally while pushing his own musical boundaries, whether solo or in the form of Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash and collaborations with his backing band, Crazy Horse. From his infamously intense performance in The Last Waltz to his nearly five-decade-old song recently setting the scene for HBO's biggest new hit, Young’s voice has stood the test of time (and technology).

In honour of his Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame induction this week, we’ve asked artists how Young has influenced their careers. Musicians from Cadence Weapon, the Barr Brothers, Jenn Grant, Alan Doyle and more picked a song of Young’s that has affected them the most — personally, professionally, but most often, both.

Scroll down for picks taken from Young's magnum opus, Harvest, to the more overtly political like Living With War — and a lot in between.

All answers have been edited for clarity.


Artist: Jolie Holland
Neil Young song: “Don't Cry No Tears;” “Revolution Blues;” “Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers”

“Neil's work is really everything to me. I couldn't name a single song. It's his entire ethos that inspires me. He doesn't shy away from the beauty or the brutality, but he's never gratuitous. ‘Don't Cry No Tears.’ ‘Revolution Blues.’ ‘Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers.’ Among the big songwriters, he's the lord of uncomfortable honesty. In that sense, he stands alongside Daniel Johnston. Neil's always a model of aiming to the heart of the matter, but he never loses step with the muse. If she needs him to veer off in some crazy course, he's right there with her. In that sense, Neil is among the most faithful of songwriters. You can feel it in all his work, his most transcendent songs as well as his most embarrassing ones. He knows meaning, but the music sends us right through the end of meaning, because Neil is that trusting, that available, to the muse.”


Artist: Brad Barr (the Barr Brothers)
Neil Young song: “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”

“The first time I heard this song, it reminded me of the way low-flying cumulus clouds break up the sunlight on bright days; thick shadows between moments of strong light. Even someone who knows little about music theory knows that most musical compositions are either in a major key or a minor key. In a nutshell: happy or sad. Classical composers often move freely between the two, but it’s rarely heard in classic rock, country, pop, etc. Neil does it on this song. He finds that balance, affirming that roots music can be as harmonically sophisticated and complex as classical or jazz, and he conveys it with simplicity. For me, it helped inform a certain emotional quality of the music I'm drawn to, a way in which the dark and the light can coexist.


Artist: Cadence Weapon (@cadenceweapon)
Neil Young song: “On the Beach”

“Neil Young is a songwriter’s songwriter. Like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, he was a gateway into lyrical music that wasn’t rap for me when I was younger. When I first got into his music as a teen, I studied his words to try and understand what made them so affecting. What I found is that his lyricism isn’t showy or overwrought; it’s powerful in its emotional simplicity. He can be oblique and mystical without coming off as willfully obtuse, which is something that has heavily influenced me. But he also often uses plain language to disarm the listener. His catalogue is full of subtly devastating lines that burrow their way into your life after you hear them. One such song is the title track from his 1974 classic album On the Beach.

“‘I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face ‘em day to day’ is the musician’s paradox encapsulated in one line: the same audience that an artist needs in order to prosper can often be the same people they rub shoulders with and feel disconnected to on a daily basis. The imagery of the song fixates on the solitude of fame turning a music tour with friends into an escapist fantasy, a way to chase a world that seems to be gradually rejecting you. The mundane realities of being a musician don’t typically make for good listening but the sludge-like musical backing for 'On the Beach' turns the song into a hypnotic dirge, a mantra for the dispossessed artist.”


Artist: Jenn Grant
Neil Young song: “Tell Me Why;” “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”

“I started listening to Neil Young when I was 14. I remember I used to have my friends come over and I let them all paint all over my walls. Their names and phone numbers. I even let my friends carve their names into my antique bed frame. I painted the lyrics to 'Tell Me Why' on my wall in orange cursive writing. It was the first time in my life that I was developing my own collection of music that meant something to me.

“These are the first songs I learned on guitar and propelled me into my own songwriting. There's a special nostalgia that goes with the music of those years — stepping out of being a child but not yet an adult — and I'm grateful for the soundtrack that guided me through. I sang 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' on my album Echoes that came out in 2009, and was recorded at a farm house in Ontario.

“I never met Neil Young but he sure captivated my young heart when I needed it most.”


Artist: Colin Linden (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings)
Neil Young song: "Walk On"

"I love his music so much. I've got so many Neil Young records. I would say one of the songs that really changed my life was 'Walk On,' from On the Beach. It's just this incredible joy in the way that they perform it and the way that the band plays together, the way that he sings. And to me, it kind of came into my life at a time when I really had to be reminded that you can really make records like that, and that there's something great about that. So that's one.

"I think it was maybe mixing the Blackie and the Rodeo Kings' Kings and Queens record [when I last needed that reminder]. I was familiar with On the Beach, that album that it came from, and listened to a lot of the songs from it, but I kind of dug in deep to a bunch of Neil's music at that period of time, and it really resonated with me. I mean the thing about great music is you come to it at different times in your life, and it might have some different significance. But you always find something new and fresh. You find a new perspective from it.

"And that really was a great thing for me. I had been just kind of working to grab the spirit of something without having to sacrifice it being listenable — you know, when I was mixing stuff and producing stuff. But I always have leaned on the idea of making records that were kind of more raw. I mean if you listen to any of my records, you know that that's the case. And this was a wonderful example and expression of that amazing spirit."


Artist: Alan Doyle
Neil Young song: “Harvest Moon”

“Neil Young for me personally was always one of those chameleon guys that I admired when I was a kid that seemed like he could be anywhere; you might see him in a rock show collaborating with a rock band and then he might be with Crosby, Stills & Nash and then he’s doing a country thing. I always admired that. I always loved that. In particular I like how Neil Young was always unafraid to write about what’s right in front of him or behind him. I think it was people like Neil Young that legitimized writing about what’s in your own backyard. There’s nothing wrong with writing about Winnipeg or writing about St. John’s — it doesn’t need to be about Chicago in a car or L.A. and a girl. I’ve always admired him for those two things especially.”


Artist: Lucy Rose
Neil Young song:
“Down by the River”

“I don't think there is a guitar solo in the world I love more than the ones in this song. Simplicity at its best! Not only has Young inspired me as a songwriter but also as a vocalist. I always used to be embarrassed that my voice wasn't perfect and super powerful, and after discovering Neil Young and falling in love with his voice and all the character it has, I felt like it was OK to have a different type of voice. I love the way this song sounds — like a band playing live in a room — and it really influenced the way I wanted to record my new record.”


Artist: Melissa McClelland (Whitehorse)
Neil Young song: “Let’s Impeach the President"

“All of the obvious songs definitely influenced my writing and my aesthetic; I walked down the aisle to ‘Harvest.’ But there are definitely some more B-side songs that have stuck with me throughout the years. Living With War, that record came out during the Bush era and it’s songs like ‘Let’s Impeach the President’ — which is really relevant right now in the U.S., but when it came out at that time it was kind of like that first protest record that had come out in a long time since punk era and the ‘60s, and it just felt a little bit of a revival of that and very timely and brave of him. He is maybe the bravest artist living, and so that record really stood out to me and kind of lit the fire in everyone.”


Artist: Luke Doucet (Whitehorse)
Neil Young song: “Winterlong”

“I grew up in Winnipeg so he was ubiquitous, and the shadow that he cast over me and all of my musical friends was enormous…. For somebody who is generally considered a folk artist but is also responsible for the most gnarly, menacing guitar sounds that have ever been created on an electric guitar and then he’s made some beautiful country music and he’s political — that’s an incredible combination of features, attributes, influences — you know, nobody gets to do that. I don’t know if anyone else has ever been able to do that, that way.

“My favourite Neil Young song right now is probably ‘Winterlong.’ It’s featured on Decade, which is generally thought of as a compilation of hits but ‘Winterlong’ was never really thought of as a hit. I heard that song originally when the Pixies covered it and it sounded like a Pixies song, which again is a testament on Neil’s ability to be in lots of different places at once. One of the great things about ‘Winterlong’ — and a lot of Neil’s songs — that people don’t realize is that people think of him as a simple writer and in a lot of ways yes, he is. But ‘Winterlong,’ much like 'Old Man,’ for example, changes keys. It’s one thing to follow the melody; it sounds easy. But it’s another thing to learn it, it’s another thing yet again to write songs like that. There’s a lot more depth than most people assume because he’s generally thought of as someone who [plays] three chords and a truth and tells it straight. Of course, he does tell it straight but it’s not necessarily just three chords and the truth; there’s always a lot more going on than what people assume.”


Artist: Hawksley Workman
Neil Young song: "Crime in the City"

"I would say, in the murky waters of my teenage years, when our parents were kind of going through a divorce, I'll say that Neil Young for me is my lens that I view Neil through is how Neil was what saved my brother through high school. I liked a lot of Neil's weird records like Landing on Water and Trans, and my brother was kind of a bit of a Neil Young curator in our house. So songs, I would say, I mean of course I'm a fan of all the biggies, the 'Helpless' and 'Old Man' and 'Needle and the Damage Done.' 

"I would say, something off of Freedom. [With 'Crime in the City'], what I felt for me, was much in the way that Joni Mitchell writes with a somewhat glib tone about the music business — you know stroking the star-maker machinery behind the popular song— that song about being in the studio and the producer dropping in and the record company guy. I think for a teenager who knew his sort of path was going to lead him into the music business, this sort of dirty, almost somewhat untoward depiction of a scene in the studio with drugs and booze and cigarettes, I felt like f--k, this is really serious. Especially for me, I was just a pure little teenage boy who'd never done anything bad. And I thought man this feels dirty, and I like it, you know?"

Neil Young song: “Needle and the Damage Done”

“Although ‘Heart of Gold’ was the first song I learned to play on the guitar, ‘Needle’ was the song I used to make my first foray into finger-picking on my guitar, and it's one I'm always drawn back to every time I feel emotionally lost. It's so heartbreaking, but there's a strength to it, a resilience, which inspires me. It's hopeless, but it reminds me that life does go on. It puts things in perspective.”


Artist: Max Kerman (Arkells)
Neil Young song: “Rockin’ in the Free World”

“One of the first songs I’ve ever learned was ‘Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World’. I feel like a lot of young, aspiring rock musicians learn that song in their early days.... I feel like if I had to pick a slightly deeper cut, I love the song ‘Tonight’s the Night.’ Another band I had in college was very obsessed with Neil Young, and we would go down the rabbit hole with all his records and so we covered ‘Tonight's the Night’ and ‘Powderfinger,’ which are two gems in the catalogue.

“I think what makes Neil special is that there are so many sides to him, and if you go through his catalogue over the years there’s so much music to discover. It’s not just one singular sound. He’s always authentic to himself and his melody and sense of song structure, lyrical phrasing, is always amazing but there’s still so much diversity within that. It's kind of what makes him one of the greats. It’s especially inspiring to know that it’s OK to evolve. I think for us, we’re never looking to repeat ourselves and when you see someone like Neil Young and you go through his catalogue and realize that he jumped around sonically a ton throughout his career — from his heavy stuff to his singer-songwriter stuff to the very adventurous electronic stuff — he wasn’t afraid to go places that weren’t totally expected from him. So for us, that’s really inspiring because I feel like that gives us licence to experiment and go down strange roads.”


Artist: Patrick Watson
Neil Young song: “Helpless”

“We saw him live at a festival, that was about six or seven years ago, and I don't know. When you see old legends, you don't know what to expect in terms of live, and they've played a million gigs and sometimes you'll find they'll be gimmicky about what they are and they try to be young, do you know what I mean? They try to relive something that they're not anymore. And what I thought was striking about Neil Young was that it was ageless, he was timeless. He was so honest and it was so visceral. And so breathtaking.

“‘Helpless’ is by far my favourite. That vocal, his vocal sound is — I don't know how words are supposed to describe it but there's something in the sound of his voice that just really kills me … I grew up walking through the woods, listening to that song. So it's definitely one of my key musical moments, beyond adulthood. That I'm not embarrassed to talk about [laughs].”


Artist: Taylor Kirk (Timber Timbre)
Neil Young song: “Vampire Blues”

“When I started writing music I had this idea that each song needed to be somehow new or unfamiliar. And I heard the perverted 12 bar meter of ‘Vampire Blues’ from On the Beach and realized I must have it all wrong. I began to take pleasure in following traditional progressions and finding ways to work with that. I loved every song from On the Beach. I always found it very ragged and cynical; singular in the discography. I think it's my favourite, I've listened to it so much. By now I've probably lifted some element from every track on the album.”


Artist: Terra Lightfoot
Neil Young song: “Harvest”

“I didn't get into Neil Young until I was a little older; my parents didn't listen to much music in general so I had to find my way to his tunes through my friends and other musicians I knew. I'd say ‘Harvest’ is my favourite Neil song, because of the funny little chord change under ‘top of the stairs’ that really sent me reeling the first time I heard it.”


Artist: Leif Vollebekk
Neil Young song: “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”

“I often think of Neil Young. One Remembrance Day in Ottawa, they fired a cannon and a smoke ring floated across the sky until it vanished in the wind. ‘Like a smoke ring day when the wind blows,’ I thought to myself. When a friend was feeling all Othello-like a while back, I told him ‘Love is a rose, you better not pick it. It only grows when it's on the vine.’ The last time I was hesitating about playing some new songs, I remembered that Neil Young ‘can't think of anything else to do with 'em other than sing 'em.’ And when I'm heartbroken, I remember ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart.’ And I know what he means when he sings, ‘It was then I knew I'd had enough/ burned my credit card for fuel/ headed out to where the pavement turns to sand.’ I know where, for me, the pavement turns to sand. And every time I'm there, so is Neil.”


Artist: Tamara Lindeman (the Weather Station)
Neil Young song: “Look Out For My Love”

“If you’re Canadian, Neil Young is endlessly familiar. You know what Neil Young sounds like seemingly before being aware of having listened to Neil Young; his peculiar sound and voice is just there, in your consciousness, picked up by osmosis. And yet, Neil exists in this uncanny valley of his own making. The closer you get to him, the more distant and strange he becomes. Listening to Neil, I’m reminded sometimes of the idea of the trickster archetype in mythology: a figure which, to quote Wikipedia, 'violates principles of social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis.'

"Neil employs very simple, child-like phrases, mixes metaphors and jumbles ideas, yet his songs feel very classic and firm, and seem normal in a way, until you look closely and see how strange they are. As a songwriter, listening to Neil is a reliable way to scramble your own inhibitions and ideas about what makes sense. [On] ‘Look Out For My Love’ he sings, ‘It’s in your neighbourhood,’ which is such a strange way to say ‘I love you,’ but somehow more true to the way love can feel like an intruder, a weight, a spirit beyond your control.

“I’ll also take a moment to appreciate Neil’s sense of rhythm, which permeates every aspect of his records. The simple, heavy drumming, the concise and hard-hitting way he plays acoustic guitar, making it seem wild and fierce somehow, and the smeared phrasing he uses in his singing, which makes everything he says seem important.

“I feel like on some level, I’ve always taken Neil Young for granted. But lately, his catalogue is one I’ve been returning to again and again, which you can do with Neil, because his songs and recordings have this wildness to them that make them feel perpetually alive, which is the hardest (and yet most important) thing to capture.”


Artist: Matthew Barber
Neil Young song: “Tell Me Why”

“I first discovered Neil Young around junior high, after learning from my parents that one of my favourite writers, Scott Young, had a son who was a famous musician. Shortly thereafter I took an interest in my parents' record collection and discovered that they had two Neil Young records: Harvest and After the Goldrush. The first song on After the Goldrush is ‘Tell Me Why,’ and to this day I think it is a near-perfect song and one of the best opening tracks of all time.  

“Its strength is its simplicity. The arrangement is sparse with Neil's effortless melody unfolding over the relaxed but propulsive rhythm of two acoustic guitars. Soaring group harmonies give the chorus a lift but never take it out of the easy kitchen-table sing-along world in which the song lives. ‘Tell Me Why’ revealed to me that technical perfection on a recording is not nearly as important as emotional content. It also showed me how a song's lyrics need not make sense in a conventional way to work. The lyrical imagery is abstract, yet there is a palpable mood that is evoked.

“I know I've been in that place before, where hope and strange comfort springs forth from melancholy. It is also a great example of how the deft incorporation of melodic hooks can make a song with a traditional folk structure stand out from the crowded field of ‘acoustic guitar music’ and elevate it to the status of a modern popular classic.”


Artist: Emily Haines
Neil Young song: “Expecting to Fly”

“I covered that on the Knives Don’t Have Your Back tour. I love his weird rhythmic things that he played around with in the Buffalo Springfield era, where he was doing weirder stuff. I know he was very unhappy with how those sonics turned out actually and I felt bad for him. I read that it wasn’t how he wanted it to sound in the end, but I think it turned out great."


Artist: Devon Portielje (Half Moon Run)
Neil Young song: “After the Gold Rush”

“I’m not sure where I first heard this song, but it has stayed with me since my early experiences with music. It’s always been quite a contrast to many other classics of the era with its sweet-yet-sombre lament for the consequences of humanity’s brazen ultra-production and super-consumption habits.

“‘Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s.’ If it was that bad in those days.

“There was a band playing in my head,
And I felt like getting high.
I was thinking about what a friend had said,
I was hoping it was a lie.”

Author

“You know that feeling when you hear something awful enough to wish it was untrue? This is Neil’s great power. He can bring you in with his fragile vibrato, so that you listen real close and he tells it like it is. He taps into something we’ve all felt at one time or another and brings you over to his side so you can see the view.

“All in a dream,
The loading had begun.
They were flying mother nature’s silver seed,
To a new home in the sun.”

Author

“And humanity banded together to send the chosen ones on a mission to start anew, never to repeat the same mistakes. But it was just a dream. This is a song most dear to me. It brings me nostalgia and wistfulness all at once. There is a poignant beauty in the despair it holds. It’s a gentle anthem for dashed hopes and comedowns. And a reminder that words sung softly can still be louder than a scream.”


Artist: Gabrielle Papillon
Neil Young song: “Old Man”

“The first time I heard ‘Old Man’ I think I was in high school. One of my friends played it in the car or something. My mum is a Neil Young fan, and she saw him play sometime well before I was born, so we heard him a lot at our house, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I think I was so used to hearing it as background music and his voice didn’t speak to me (especially as an angst-ridden teenager). At the time I was mostly listening to Radiohead, and Bjork and the Tragically Hip. And a lot of punk music. All the punk music. And all the bands of the '90s. So this was pretty radically out there for me.

“But ‘Old Man’ is — was — different. It’s haunting and tragic and dark from the very beginning. The bass line is so simple but it added this heft to the music that really spoke to me.

“And then the chorus comes in and those harmonies, those gang vocals, are like a punch in the gut. They make me want to weep and cry out. It’s so desperate, like the people singing were singing for their life with all this emotion channelled into the words and the melody. It’s akin to everything I love about the Band, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The dynamics of a big powerful chorus are everything to me, and it’s had such a profound effect on my writing. I feel like that’s where you hear the human struggle. There’s something about the emotion and the perfect blend in voices that is pure. It cuts through everything without any artifice, and to me that is such a powerful thing. That was the thing that got me. This song was my gateway drug to Neil Young, if you will.”


Artist: Warren Spicer (Plants and Animals)
Neil Young song: "Ambulance Blues"

“I think that a song like [‘Ambulance Blues’] kind of sums up his pursuit of recording more than just a song. His recordings are always more about in between the notes ... it seems like he's always after some kind of other presence in the room when he records so when you listen to his music you get the sense that there's just more going on than just somebody singing a song; there's kind of a phantom in the room or something.

"I think that song in particular feels very in the moment and very ghost-y; I don't think anybody else makes such a point of controlling their output to the point of choosing such a — I don't know how to describe it but just unpolished, unrefined music at the end of the process. It's kind of the tempo [of ‘Ambulance Blues’], the arrangement, the mix, everything about it is kind of off in many ways. The lyrics; it's strange, it's kind of long and meandering and I think it's like eight-and-a-half minutes, and his voice is mixed off to the left side. There’s kind of this fiddle in the middle, some weird overdub choices. It all feels like it just went down in an evening and then they mixed it and that was it and they never thought about it again.”


Artist: Will Whitwham (Wilderness of Manitoba)
Neil Young song: “Thrasher"

“I can remember growing up with Neil Young's Harvest record being played over the speakers at my family's place, and like any album put on by my relatives, I was drawn to its sound in a peripheral way. It wasn't until much later in my early 20s: I was at a particularly down time living in Toronto's west end near Roncesvalles when I heard 'Thrasher' over the speakers at a local bar. Hearing Neil Young so many times before on a level of archetypal proportions, I'd never heard him sound so earnest and vulnerable. I couldn't make out all of the lyrics over the ambience of the room, but could feel the sentiment from his voice and how he played the 12-string guitar. From then on, his music sounded different to me. One song changed the way that I've listened to all of his albums ever since.”


Artist: Matt Epp
Neil Young song: “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)”

“‘Mother Earth (Natural Anthem),’ Neil's last song on Ragged Glory, changes my life every time I hear it. I can hear and feel Neil's immense love for the planet and all life on it. It speaks to me because I feel that love, too. I feel Neil's heartbreak over the way we've chosen to live, and how the beauty of the Earth overwhelms even that great sadness. I want my songs to have that same truth; both in the sadness and in the beauty. And 'Mother Earth' is so anthemic, with such simple and powerful images, and asks a question — ‘Can you let this go?’ — of both the listener and himself; a question that echoes in my heart as I cross this country and the world and see so many beautiful natural places. It asks me if I can let it go for the sake of our children. My daughter. I must also add that the tone of Neil's guitar is insane. I've always loved his guitar tones in general, and his harmonica playing is a direct influence on how I play harmonica.”


Artist: Ruth B
Neil Young song: “Heart of Gold”

“For any singer-songwriter from Canada he’s obviously such an influence, especially for me, since I’m 22. My favourite is probably ‘Heart of Gold’ because that’s the one I’m most familiar with and would hear mostly when I was growing up. I just really appreciate the way he writes and how honest his songs are.”


Artist: Jessica Mitchell
Neil Young song: “Needle and the Damage Done”

“That song; great guitar part for it and just the ache and the pain that you can hear in that song. There’s a really amazing live video of him doing [it] back in the '70s, and you just sit there and your jaw just falls on the floor and you’re just like, ‘Holy crap, this man has lived a life around some people.’ In my opinion, he is the greatest Canadian songwriter of all time.”


Artist: Liam O'Neill (Suuns)
Neil Young song: “Piece of Crap”

"I think if I'm being honest, my most striking Neil Young experience was being in a living room in Bloomington, Ind., hearing ‘Piece of Crap’ for the first time. It was hilarious and dismaying, neither of which qualities have diminished with time for me as a listener. But more than that, it was an expression of the fearlessness that has accompanied Neil and his music for his entire career; another edition of Neil Young being the fart in the elevator. Subtle and gorgeous protest songs turned to down-and-out death knells for the ‘60s; ‘Everybody's Rockin'’ turned to ‘Trans’ turned to cantankerous on-the-nose shouting about cheap production. A freak right down to his dying day — you do you, Neil."


Artist: Liam Corcoran
Neil Young song: "Harvest Moon"

"I wanted to say one of the deeper cuts that aren't as well known, but if I was being honest I think it has to be 'Harvest Moon.' [I first heard it in] junior high school, probably the eighth grade, and I was just starting to learn the guitar at that time and I had a few close friends who were much further ahead with the guitar than I was, but it was a song that sounded really interesting but I could still play it, even just learning how to play the guitar; playing the chords, learn how to do the harmonics that happened in the song.

"It was just amazing to me that something so interesting was actually fairly simple to play on the guitar, and that had a big effect on me and I think how I tried to write songs from that point on. It really had quite a big impact on me as a fan — I was already a fan of Neil Young but that song kind of made me a fan of how he wrote, and I tried to emulate that a little bit as I went forward as a songwriter."


Band: Jason McCoy, Chris Byrne, Clayton Bellamy (the Road Hammers)
Neil Young song: “Long May You Run;” “Sugar Mountain;” “Rockin’ in the Free World”

Jason McCoy: “It’s hard to pick a favourite Neil Young song because they’re all unique; that’s just what he does. But I love the actual sonnet quality of ‘Long May You Run,’ it’s just timeless.”

Chris Byrne: “I’m going to have to say ‘Sugar Mountain.’ That was the first song on a live record that he released in the late ‘70s and I remember that my brother had it on LP and it was the first song and it still is magical every time I hear it, and sends chills up my spine. Anything from that record.”

Clayton Bellamy: “It’s unreal to me how he can go from writing the beautiful tunes to these rockers and I love his protest songs so I’m going to say ‘Rockin’ in the Free World.’”


Artist: Lindsay Ell
Neil Young song: “Heart of Gold”

“‘Heart of Gold’ for sure is something that comes to mind. Neil Young was such a pioneer and really laid the groundwork for all of us. The fact that he passes the torch and we carry it on, it’s a huge responsibility.”


Artist: Aaron Pritchett
Neil Young song: “Harvest Moon”

“'Harvest Moon' is one of my favourite Neil Young songs. He’s an incredible writer and in some ways an underrated singer. People have said well, ‘Neil Young isn’t really a singer’ and it’s like Willie Nelson was the same way; they have a way of singing that nobody can replicate and it’s unbelievable. They send their message through their song and you’re buying in, it’s captivating.”

More to explore:

Beau Dommage: the essentials

Q&A: Bruce Cockburn, Bone on Bone

Neil Young: 70 things you need to know about the Canadian rock icon