16 Fascinating Neil Young Facts, Including One About a Spider

neil young playing guitar
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Last updated on August 22nd, 2023 at 03:42 pm

Simply, Neil Young is one-of-a-kind. Whether adding a much-needed edge to Crosby, Stills, and Nash or creating his own singular music, Neil Young is a legend as a songwriter, guitarist, and singer.

Here are some Neil Young facts that you’ll be thrilled to learn.

1. He was in a Band With Rick James in the 1960s

rick james shaking the hand of another singer back stage
Rick James shaking the hand of another singer. Image from Shutterstock.

We begin with what is certainly one of the most interesting Neil Young facts. Before they were stars, Neil Young and “Super Freak” singer Rick James were in the Canadian R&B band the Mynah Birds in the mid-60s. While recording their debut album, James got arrested for deserting the Navy, and the band broke up. 

2. His 2007 Release Chrome Dreams II is the Sequel to An Unreleased Album

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It’s one thing to come out with a sequel to an album – it’s another to do it for a record that was never released. That’s what Young did with Chrome Dreams II, the sequel to a highly-regarded 1977 collection that never saw the light of day. The “Old Man” singer announced that the original Chrome Dreams would finally come out in August 2023. 

3. His Music is Often Political

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Neil Young has a folk side and a rock side. As a folk singer, he comes from the political tradition of folk legend Woody Guthrie and early Bob Dylan. Some highlights of his political activism include writing the classic “Ohio” about the killing of four students at Kent State University, the anti-Bush screed Living With War, and 2022’s climate-conscious World Record.

Related: Amazing Bob Dylan Facts

4. His First Band, Buffalo Springfield, Was a Supergroup

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Well-known for their hit “For What It’s Worth,” Young first hit the big time in the late ’60s with supergroup Buffalo Springfield. The band also included Stephen Stills, Jim Messina (Poco, Loggins and Messina), and Richie Furay (Poco).

5. Neil Young is Mentioned in Kurt Cobain’s Suicide Note

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In what has to be the most tragic of Neil Young facts, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain named him in his suicide note. Cobain quotes a line from Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”

Related: 18 Best Nirvana Songs

6. He’s Toured and Recorded With a Band Led by Willie Nelson’s Son

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For the last several years, Neil Young has cultivated an important musical relationship with Promise of the Real, a band led by Willie Nelson‘s son Lukas. They’ve toured and released some music together, including 2017’s The Visitor.

7. He’s Released Albums Dedicated to Country, Soul, Rockabilly, and Guitar Feedback

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The “Heart of Gold” singer is quite versatile. 2002’s Are You Passionate? was a Motown/soul album with Booker T and the MGs, 1985’s Old Ways was straight-up country, 1983’s Everybody’s Rockin’ a rockabilly exercise, and 1991’s Arc mostly consisted of feedback.

8. The Canadian Singer Has Been Recognized by His Country

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Most people know about knighthood in England, but few know that there are Canadian equivalents of such accolades. Two of these are the Order of Manitoba and Officer of the Order of Canada, which Young was named in 2006 and 2009, respectively.

9. He Left His Wife of 36 Years for Actress and Activist Daryl Hannah

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In 2014, Neil Young divorced his wife of 36 years, Pegi Morton, after reportedly falling in love with Daryl Hannah while working on an environmentalist documentary. Neil and Pegi had two children, Ben and Amber, and created the Bridge School Benefit concerts to help raise awareness for cerebral palsy, which Ben was born with.

10. Neil Young is a Filmmaker

an action device on a movie set
Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The “Down by the River” singer has directed or co-directed many films, including 1973’s Journey Through the Past and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young documentary CSNY/Deja Vu. His pseudonym when he directs is Bernard Shakey.

11. He Had Polio

image of test tubes with blood being tested for polio the one selected is positive
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Sadly, Neil Young contracted polio in 1951. It caused him to become partially paralyzed on his left side.

12. There Was a Neil Young-Lynyrd Skynyrd Feud

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Though they were fans of each other’s music, in the early 1970s Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd had a little musical tit-for-tat. The Southern rockers wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” as a response to what they saw as Young’s anti-South sentiments in his “Alabama” and “Southern Man.” Young countered with the lighthearted, rocking “Walk On.”

13. He Took His Music Off Spotify

why is spotify shutting down heardle
Why is Spotify shutting down Heardle. Image by Thibault Penin on Unsplash.

The “A Man Needs a Maid” singer removed his music from Spotify to protest what he saw as misinformation coming from Joe Rogan’s successful podcast on the platform. Some have noted the disparity between this move and how important free speech supposedly was to Young’s generation in the 60s.

14. He’s Called the “Godfather of Grunge”

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Neil Young’s work with his band Crazy Horse is often loose, ramshackle, and rocking. Basically, they’re the blueprint for Grunge, leading many to call him the “Godfather of Grunge.”

15. His Record Label Sued Him

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After synthesizer-heavy 1982 album Trans and 1983 rockabilly exercise Everybody’s Rockin’, David Geffen, head of the Geffen label Young was signed to, sued him for making music that was “unrepresentative” of his style. Geffen ended up apologizing and withdrawing the suit.

16. A Spider is Named After Him

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As far as weird Neil Young facts go, this takes the cake. In 2007, biologist Jason Bond named a new species of spider he discovered, Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi, after his favorite singer, our guy, Neil Young.

What was your favorite of our Neil Young Facts?

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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