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Music

A complete list of all the musical icons who appear on Neil Young's studio albums

Neil Young needs no real introduction, as he is of a very rare pedigree. He is ‘The Godfather of Grunge’, the man who helped lay down the essential foundations of alternative rock long before it exploded into the monster it is today.

Young is also a genius wordsmith with a poetic grasp of prose that isn’t dissimilar to the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, allowing him to lay his complex thoughts bare with lucidity. Added to this, he’s also a guitar icon. Much like B. B. King and Peter Green, Young plays his six-string from the heart, emphasising feeling and sincerity rather than technical peacocking.

Young has enjoyed a career quite like no other, and it’s a testament to his work that he’s managed to release over 40 studio albums and still manage to retain authenticity, which has us excited for his upcoming album later this year, Toast. One thing that always sticks in my memory about Young’s career is the hard work he put in. He played in a myriad of bands in his native Canada before deciding to make the long journey to California, where he would quickly become a member of one of the hottest bands of the counterculture: Buffalo Springfield.

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After leaving Buffalo Springfield, Young then embarked on his solo career with his eponymous debut, Neil Young dropping in 1968. He then released the masterpiece that is Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, his first with Crazy Horse in 1969, before joining the eminent supergroup that is Crosby, Stills and Nash soon after. Together, they delivered one of the most timeless albums of the era, Déjà Vu, which contains some of the ultimate hippie cuts such as ‘Woodstock’, ‘Carry On’ and ‘Teach Your Children’.

After departing the supergroup, Young then carried on with his solo career, and it is safe to say that the ’70s was fruitful for him creatively, regardless of the incredibly fraught personal experiences he had to endure. From 1970’s After the Gold Rush to 1972’s Harvest to 1975’s Zuma, Young produced a string of the best albums ever made in the decade.

By the time that the existentially bleak live album Rust Never Sleeps rolled around in 1979, he had long been established as an icon, and one of the ultimate heroes of Generation X who were still just adolescents. Over the 1980s and ’90s, they created the alternative culture as we know it today, with one eye firmly focused on the work of Neil Young. 

However, Neil Young hasn’t managed to cultivate his status totally of his own accord. Much like his contemporary David Bowie, Young has invariably drawn on the talents of his friends and other musical legends to help him achieve his vivid and ever-expanding creative vision. 

From Gloria Richetta Jones appearing on Neil Young to James Taylor appearing on Harvest and Robbie Robertson on Homegrown, Young has drawn on such a wide variety of talent across his career that it is genuinely astounding. Encompassing seemingly every genre under the sun from rock to rap, there’s no wonder why he’s has managed to retain the freshness that made his early albums so magical. 

Duly, we’ve compiled a complete list of the musical legends who have appeared on Neil Young’s studio albums. Wanting to be as concise as possible, this means that we’ve excluded live albums such as Time Fades Away, so do not anticipate seeing drummer Johnny Barbata on the list. We’ve also left out groups such as the London Symphony Orchestra who performed on Harvest, as personnel often change in these groups, so it’s never the same. We’ve also made it chronologically to get an orderly sense of how these figures came and went.

Expect to see some familiar faces such as Stephen Stills and David Crosby, and more surprising figures such as the American hero of the fiddle Rufus Thibodeaux.

Every musician to appear on Neil Young studio albums:

  • Ry Cooder
  • Jack Nitzsche
  • Jim Messina
  • Carol Kaye
  • Earl Palmer
  • Merry Clayton
  • Gloria Richetta Jones
  • Danny Whitten
  • Ralph Molina
  • Billy Talbot
  • Nils Lofgren
  • Stephen Stills
  • James Taylor
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • David Crosby
  • Graham Nash
  • Ben Keith
  • Tim Drummond
  • Kenny Buttrey
  • Rusty Kershaw
  • Tim Drummond
  • Rick Danko
  • Levon Helm
  • Frank Sampedro
  • Russ Kunkel
  • George “Chocolate” Perry
  • Joe Vitale
  • Joe Lala
  • Nicolette Larson
  • Emmylou Harris
  • Spooner Oldham
  • Rufus Thibodeaux
  • Joe Osborn
  • Larrie Londin
  • J. J. Cale
  • Johnny Christopher
  • Ray Edenton
  • Shelly Kurland
  • Bruce Palmer
  • Larry Byrom
  • Anthony Crawford
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Ralph Mooney
  • Hargus “Pig” Robbins
  • Gordon Terry
  • Terry McMillan
  • Béla Fleck
  • Bobby Thompson
  • Gove Scrivenor
  • Marty Stuart
  • Gail Davies
  • Janis Oliver-Gill
  • Kristine Oliver-Arnold
  • Steve Jordan
  • Danny Kortchmar
  • Chad Cromwell
  • Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas
  • John Fumo
  • Tony Marsico
  • Astrid Young
  • Maria Newman
  • Israel Baker
  • Donald Dunn
  • Wayne Jackson
  • Curtis Wright
  • Lukas Nelson
  • Micah Nelson
  • DRAM
  • Nico Segal
  • Robbie Robertson
  • Stan Szelest

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