Last week, Neil Young announced that he would be releasing yet another album—a live record from one of his mid-’80s tours called A Treasure. But this is only a slice of what our favorite Canadian songwriter has been up to this year. From winning a Grammy to reuniting with Buffalo Springfield, Young has continued his busy ways a half-century into his musical career.
There’s rarely a shortage of Neil Young news items given the continued consistency and excellence of this prolific songwriter. But really, do you need an excuse to reflect upon his greatest works? He has more than we can count divided among his 30-plus solo studio albums (with the exception of Everybody’s Rockin’ and a couple others). But here are our picks for the Neil Young songs that reign supreme.
Young wrote this song about his experiences in what had become a creatively stagnant Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the mid-70’s.
24. “Angry World”
Off of his latest record Le Noise, “Angry World” won Young what somehow was only his second-ever Grammy this year.
23. “See The Sky About To Rain”
This Harvest-era track thankfully saw the light of the day a few years later, making the cut for the cult classic On The Beach.
22. “Unknown Legend”
One of Young’s most underrated works was recently revived by Tunde Adebimpe, who covered the song in the film Rachel Getting Married.
21. “Like a Hurricane”
Young wrote this song in the back of his friend’s DeSoto Suburban, with his friend helping him due to his recent vocal chord operation and inability to sing for an extended period of time.
20. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”
The title track off his second solo LP showcases Young’s early turn toward country-rock.
19. “Ambulance Blues”
This nine-minute acoustic ballad broods on his past bands, critics and the way time changes both.
18. “Cowgirl in the Sand”
The guitar solo introducing this 10-minute Crazy Horse collaboration makes this song all that much better.
17. “Harvest Moon”
Among Young’s best acoustic works from the ‘90s.
16. “Are You Ready For the Country?”
As one of the many excellent tracks off of Harvest, this one exemplifies his ability to crank out a country-rock classic with relative ease.
15. “Tonight’s The Night”
“Tonight’s The Night” introduces us into Young’s world of grief, angst and desolation on the album of the same name.
14. “Walk On”
Young gives his ultimate declaration of closure on “Walk On,” crying out “Some get stoned, some get strange. But sooner or later, it all gets real. Walk on.”
13. “Down By the River”
A tale of cheating, murder and arrest, one that Young supposedly wrote while delirious in bed with a 103 °F fever.
12. “The Needle and the Damage Done”
On his Live at Massey Hall 1971 album, Young explained this song live by stating: “I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But… strangely enough, the real good ones… that you never got to see was… ‘cause of, ahhm, heroin.”
11. “Tell Me Why”
“Tell me why, is it hard to make arrangements with yourself / When you’re old enough to repay but young enough to sell?”
10. “Rockin’ in the Free World”
One Canadian’s rockin’ take on the U.S. of A.
9. “Southern Man”
This outcry again Southern culture in the 1960’s later inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to defend the South in their hit “Sweet Home Alabama.”
8. “Cinnamon Girl”
It’s been widely rumored as to who the redhead inspiring this song is, but does it really matter? This is Neil Young rocker is great no matter who the girl behind it is.
7. “Cortez The Killer”
One of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s finest songs ever.
6. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
Neil Young supposedly wrote this ode to heartbreak for longtime bandmate Graham Nash after he broke up with Joni Mitchell.
5. “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”
Young’s revitalized response in the late-’70s after critics mistakenly claimed that he was fading out of the blue and into the black of his expiring career.
4. “Old Man”
This songwriting gem is the perfect comparison of old and young, father and son and the similarities each entails.
While originally recorded with CSNY, Young’s early ‘70s solo performance of this song stands as the more poignant, intimate and honest rendition.
2. “After The Gold Rush”
A haunting and pensive look at mother nature in the 1970s.
1. “Heart of Gold”
“Heart of Gold” encapsulates the beauty of Neil Young. His songs are stripped down and simple, yet always manage to convey an emotional state in the fullest way.