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Characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and signature nasal tenor and frequently alto singing voice, Neil Percival Young OM is a Canadian singer-songwriter, guitarist, and film director from Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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.
When he reached Los Angeles, Young and Palmer met up with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and Dewey Martin to form Buffalo Springfield. A mixture of folk, country, psychedelic, and rock lent a hard edge by the twin lead guitars of Stills and Young made Buffalo Springfield a critical success, and their first record Buffalo Springfield (1967) sold well after Stills' topical song "For What It's Worth" became a hit aided by Young's melodic harmonics played on electric guitar.
Distrust of their management and the arrest and deportation of Palmer exacerbated already strained relations among group members and led to Buffalo Springfield's demise. A second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, was released in late 1967, but two of Young's three contributions were actually solo tracks recorded apart from the rest of the group.
After the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, Young signed a solo deal with Reprise Records, home of his colleague and friend Joni Mitchell, with whom he shared a manager, Elliot Roberts. Young and Nitzsche immediately began work on Young's first solo record, Neil Young received mixed reviews. In a 1970 interview, Young deprecated the album as being "overdubbed rather than played," and the quest for music that expresses the spontaneity of the moment has long been a feature of his career. Nevertheless, the album contains some tunes that remain a staple of his live shows, most notably "The Loner."
On March 31, 2005, Young was admitted to a hospital in New York for treatment for a brain aneurysm. He was treated successfully by a minimally invasive neuro-radiological procedure. Prior to undergoing the procedure, he wrote the first eight songs of a new album, Prairie Wind, in Nashville, with session musicians that included regular Young sideman Ben Keith on lap and pedal steel guitars. The last two songs on the album were written after his aneurysm procedure.
Many of the songs, such as "Fallin' Off the Face of the Earth," seem to be inspired by Young's brush with mortality, the recent death of his father (who suffered senile dementia), as well as a connection with his Manitoba roots. Two days after the procedure, Young was forced to cancel a scheduled appearance on the Juno Awards telecast in Winnipeg when the area where the surgeons did his procedure suddenly began to bleed. Young finally was able to return to Winnipeg in 2006 with Crosby, Stills and Nash.He next performed on July 2, 2005, at the close of the Live 8 concert in Barrie, Ontario. He presented a new song; a soft hymn called "When God Made Me," and ended with "Rockin' In The Free World." He began his set with a cover of the Canadian folk classic "Four Strong Winds" by Ian & Sylvia Tyson.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:
1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop nicknamed "Old Black"; this is Young's primary electric guitar and is featured on Rust Never Sleeps and most other albums. Old Black got its name from a purely amateur paintjob applied to the originally-gold body of the instrument, sometime before Neil acquired the guitar in the late 1960s. In 1972, a mini-humbucker pickup from a Gibson Firebird guitar was installed into the lead/treble position, replacing a P-90 as standard on Les Paul guitars from that era. This pickup, severely micro phonic, is considered a crucial component of Neil's sound. A Bigsby vibrato unit was installed as early as 1969 on the guitar, and can be heard clearly during the opening of "Cowgirl in the Sand" from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Martin D-45 - His primary steel-string acoustic guitar; used to write "Old Man" and many other hit songs.
An edited version of Young's song "Rockin' in the Free World" plays in the ending credits of the Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. In a sketch of Saturday Night Live, guest host Kevin Spacey portrayed Young with his upcoming fictional album entitled "I Do Not Agree with Many of this Administration's Policies". Featured songs included: "George W. Liar", "I'm Just Going to Go Ahead and Say It, I Don't Think Iraq is Going Well", "Donald Rumsfeld is a Straight-Up Murderer", and "Dick Cheney is Overweight".
Neil being a multi talented and extravagant in choices had a tumultuous life in his childhood. He was born on November 12, 1945, Toronto, Ontario to sportswriter and novelist Scott Young and Rassy Ragland, who had moved to Toronto from their family home of Manitoba to pursue a sport journalism career. Neil spent his early years in the small country town of Omemee, in southern Ontario. A bout of polio at the age of 6 left him with a weakened left side, and he still walks with a slight limp.
His parents divorced when Young was 12, and he moved with his mother back to the family home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where his music career began. When Neil Young arrived in Winnipeg from Ontario, he already knew what it was like to be uprooted, since his family had gone wherever his father's career in journalism had taken him. But after the break-up of his parents' marriage, Neil and his mother Rassy settled into the working class suburb of Fort Rouge where the shy, dry-humoured youth enrolled at Earl Grey Junior High School. It was there that he met Ken Koblun, later to join him in the Squires, and there he formed his first band the Jades.
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