"I'm proud to be a Canadian — but I don't let it hold me back," Neil Young said in his 2002 biography, Shakey, a stance that has, over his 50-plus year career, put him in a unique relationship with his home country.
He spent his formative years here, inspired by small towns and big highways, constantly moving with his family from city to city and across provinces, then travelling to gigs in Manitoba and Ontario in his early days as a musician. But he was also inspired by what he refers to as the Canadian tendency to consider all sides of the story, sometimes to the point of paralysis.
"There's something in Canada that teaches you that you always gotta look at both sides. See how other people could figure out why what you're saying is wrong before you're so sure you're right," he writes. "Songs like 'Rockin' in the Free World' or 'Change Your Mind' — you think there might be something Canadian in the ambiguity of those songs? Yeah. That's all it is."
Young may have left Canada, physically, in the '60s, but his spiritual connections run as deep as Manitoba's Red River. On his 2005 song "Far From Home," he affirms this love and longing for the country of his birth. "Bury me out on the prairie/ where the buffalo used to roam," he sings. "Where the Canada geese once filled the sky/ and then I won't be far from home."
On Sept. 23, Young will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame for his indelible contributions to music. Over on q, we take a look at the key places, moments and lyrics that show the influence Canada had on Young. From his childhood home in a town in North Ontario to his first recording in Winnipeg to his final moments before setting out for Los Angeles and skyrocketing to fame, this is Neil Young's Canada.