On this day in 1945, Neil Young was born in Toronto. Since the mid-'60s, Young has been leaving an indelible mark on popular music with his unpredictable and unusual songs that veer from sweet country sounds to lumbering hard rock.
Young's parents divorced when he was a child, and he moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, with his mother. In high school, he played in several rock bands, such as the Stardusters and the Squires, and met fellow musicians Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills in folk clubs. Mitchell wrote her classic "The Circle Game" for Young, after hearing his early ballad "Sugar Mountain."
In 1966, Young and bassist Bruce Palmer, who had recorded an album together on Motown as part of the Mynah Birds, formed Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles with Stills, guitarist Richie Furay and drummer Dewey Martin. In their few years together, Buffalo Springfield helped pioneer country-rock and had a big hit with "For What It's Worth."
Young issued his self-titled, solo-debut LP in 1969 and began playing with the Rockets, whom he renamed Crazy Horse. The band, featuring guitarist Danny Whitten, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina, first recorded with Young on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969). The LP contained such classics as "Cinnamon Girl" and "Down By The River."
Young joined Crosby, Stills and Nash for their 1970 album, Déjà Vu, and also issued the solo After the Gold Rush that year. Young left Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1971. The following year, he had a #1 LP with Harvest, featuring the #1 hit "Heart of Gold."
After Whitten overdosed, Young issued the sad, harrowing On the Beach (1974) and Tonight's the Night (1975), with its anguished title cut (RealAudio excerpt). He returned to hard rocking with 1975's Zuma, which was highlighted by the emotional "Cortez the Killer." In 1976, Young recorded Long May You Run with Stills, whom he stranded midway through a tour together.
In 1979, Young, with Crazy Horse, released Rust Never Sleeps, which included the popular lyrics "hey, hey, my, my, rock and roll will never die" at a time when disco music was threatening rock's hold over American youth.
Young's early-'80s output was eccentric even by his standards. Hawks & Doves (1980) included weird country songs, while 1982's Trans featured a side trip into electronic pop. He lost a lot of his audience with the rockabilly Everybody's Rockin' (1983).
Fans began responding to Young again with 1987's This Note's for You. The video for the title cut (which attacked rock stars who allowed their music to be used in ads) won MTV's Video Music Award for Best Video of the Year.
In an early '90s interview with the New York Times, Young said his '80s music reflected his frustration with his difficulty communicating with his son Ben, who suffered from cerebral palsy. The new decade brought a slew of post-punk musicians who hailed Young as the grandfather of grunge. His music, beginning with Freedom (1989) and its hit, "Rockin' in the Free World," had renewed passion.
Young returned to Crazy Horse for the critically hailed Ragged Glory (1990). The following year, he toured with Sonic Youth and Social Distortion. The folky Harvest Moon was a 1992 hit, and Young issued an Unplugged LP the next year.
Sleeps With Angels (1994) was well-received, and Young recorded Mirror Ball with Pearl Jam in 1995. Broken Arrow, an album with Crazy Horse, came out the following year accompanied by a tour. The shows were documented in Jim Jarmusch's 1997 film, "The Year of the Horse."
The Bridge School concerts that Young stages annually with his wife for the benefit of the center they founded for disabled kids continue to attract influential musicians to their bills; this year's lineup included R.E.M.
Young also co-founded the Farm Aid effort, which draws rock stars to perform for the relief of family farmers.
Young is reportedly working on a folk-rock album. Whatever he does in the future, he has become a rock legend for his music and humanitarian efforts.
Other birthdays: Brian Hyland, 55; John (Maus) Walker (Walker Brothers), 55; Booker T. Jones (Booker T & the MG's), 54; Arthur Tavares (Tavares), 52; Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (Blue Öyster Cult), 51; Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate), 50; Leslie McKeown (Bay City Rollers), 43; David Ellefson (Megadeth), 34; and Mike Zelenko (Material Issue), 31.