Most people know by now that my all-time favorite artist is Canadian-born Neil Young. That’s right, the same Neil Young whose songwriting catalog and career span five decades, making him one of the most prolific singer-song writers of our time. Best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, his solo career is far more impressive and shows his range as an artist.
Over the years, he has experimented with so many different sounds, from folk to country to heavy metal. His live shows are never dull and he’s even brought a theatrical element to his live concerts in recent years. Neil Young’s music is at once personal and public. His lyrics have provided an appropriate backdrop for my generation as he continues to make a difference for those of us who want a peaceful world, good music, and sustainable environment for our children and grandchildren.
Sure, you’ve heard the songs. But, maybe you don’t know the man who’s as interesting and relevant off the stage as he is on. Want to learn more about singer-songwriter Neil Young? Check out these 5 Things You Don’t Know About Neil Young. They might surprise you.
1. Neil Young is a serious survivor. Neil Young’s life reads like a rock and roll cat who’s got 25 lives or more. Born in Toronto, over the years he’s survived several serious medical conditions, including diabetes, polio, and epilepsy. In 2005, as he was treated for an aneurysm, life-threatening complications arose requiring further hospitalization. He continues to thrive and inspire so many with his music and dedication to important causes.
2. Neil Young was nominated for an Academy Award. That’s right. Young wrote the title track for the 1993 award winning film, Philadelphia starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Roberta Maxwell. Neil Young even performed the song at the 66thAcademy Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles.
3. Neil Young is a lifelong train enthusiast. That’s right, Young’s been crazy for trains since he was 5 years old. Young has even been known to take train layouts with him on tour. He’s also designed what became Lionel’s Train Master Command Control system. In 1995, Young and Wellspring Associates purchased Lionel. Young continues to have a minority stake in Lionel.
4. Neil Young dedicated an entire album to his electric car. In 2009 Young produced Fork in the Road, written about his electric car he has aptly named Lincvolt. In a broadcast interview with Charlie Rose, Young reported that the songs on the album were an “emotional response” to the “social and ecological questions” facing the world’s population. In recent years, Young has gotten involved in developing alternative fuels. As a result, Young partnered with Johnathan Goodwin on the Lincvot project where his 1959 Lincoln Continental was converted to use alternative energy. Young continues to inspire the younger generation with his commitment to energy conservation and sustainable agriculture.
5. Neil Young was named MusiCares’ Person of the Year for 2010. Young has long combined his artistic talents with philanthropic work, as seen in his unwavering support for Farm Aid and The Bridge School. As a Board of Directors member and co-founder of Farm Aid, Young’s efforts have contributed to the growth of the Good Food Movement which has done a lot to change the way American’s think about food and agriculture. The first Farm Aid concert was held in 1985 to raise awareness and funds to keep family farms going. Farm Aid has gained distinction as the longest running benefit concert series in America and, as such, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2010. Young’s contributions, along with his co-founders Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp, have changed the hearts and minds of so many and advanced efforts to promote a more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle.
Charlie Rose – A Conversation with Neil Young
Jimmy McDonough. Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography (Random House, 2002.)