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Neil Young

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One of the most distinctive and easily identifiable stylists in rock and roll, Neil Young has throughout his lengthy career remained one of the least predictable - a trait that keeps his fans on their toes, though the inconsistency that comes with any experimentation may have limited his overall success a bit.

Young had recorded before - most notably with the Rick James-led Mynah Birds - but he first reached public acclaim c. 1967 for his work as guitarist, singer and songwriter with Buffalo Springfield; credits he shared with fellow stars-to-be Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. Primarily a solo artist following his departure from the Springfield, Young also occasionally teams up with Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash to add his brand of fire to what then becomes Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Young and fellow Canadian Mynah Bird Bruce Palmer arrived in Los Angeles just in time to meet with earlier acquaintances Stills and Furay, forming Buffalo Springfield. Barely remaining intact for two albums, the Springfield became and remain legendary (see separate entry) before Young's 1968 departure.

His solo debut, Neil Young, placed him firmly in the emerging singer-songwriter movement. Though sales weren't notable, the content was; best-known of those songs was The Loner. Hooking up with Los Angeles band The Rockets - guitarist Danny Whitten, drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot - he promptly re-named them Crazy Horse, and recorded the album Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, with songs including Cinnamon Girl and the plaintive Cowgirl in the Sand. The album also contained Down By the River, the first of Young's high-intensity guitar freakouts -a list of numbers that would grow to include Like a Hurricane, Powderfinger and Cortez the Killer that continue to highlight Young's shows as they (generally) turn into furious instrumental battles between him and Frank "Pancho" Sampedro, who joined Crazy Horse four years following Whitten's fatal 1972 heroin overdose.

One could generalize that Young alternates between country-flavored ballads like Heart of Gold, Old Man, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Sugar Mountain and Harvest Moon with the aforementioned mainly instrumental jams, but that wouldn't allow for the heavily-electronic album Trans, the rockabilly Everybody's Rockin', the soul-influenced This Note's for You, and other experiments that evidently keep Young interested, though occasionally confusing audiences, not to mention his record labels.

In addition to Crazy Horse and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Young has recorded with groups of pick-up musicians, and existing groups including Booker T. and the M.G.s and Pearl Jam; that last pairing acknowledging Young's status as the Grandfather of Grunge.

Young's songwriting can seem as individual as his reedy voice; still, other artists have had hits with his songs, including Nicolette Larson's Lotta Love, Linda Ronstadt's Love Is a Rose, and an a cappella reading of After the Gold Rush by the British group Prelude.

In addition to his music, Young is something of a filmmaker, with credits including Rust Never Sleeps and - all directed under the name "Bernard Shakey," Journey Through the Past, Human Highway, and Greendale - a dramatization of his 2003 concept album of the same name. Young was inducted into the Rock and roll Hall of Fame as a solo performer in 1995 - nine years before the Buffalo Springfield's 2004 entry. (Crosby, Stills & Nash were also inducted in 2004, though without Young).

© 2004