Neil Young’s songwriting prowess is unparalleled; Old Shakey’s emotions are capable of making a listener feel within a song is the very definition of poetic and one song tugs on the heartstrings more than most. There’s a bucketload of emotive topics that Young has used in his work to make people feel over the decades, but, there’s one particular about his daughter that captures the legendary singer at his most fragile and personal hour.
Fatherhood is perhaps the one thing that means more to Young than music; he is a devoted family man who has built his life around being there for his kids whenever and wherever he can. His first child was born in 1972, to actress Carrie Snodgrass, their child, Zeke, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. His second child, Ben, would also be diagnosed with the same condition after his birth in 1978. Young adapted his life to make sure that it fits around him being there for his children and making sure he could be a good father to them.
In 1984, Young became a father for the third time when his wife, Pegi, gave birth to Amber Jean and in 2005. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1988 about the complexities of fatherhood and the difficulties he has faced from having two disabled children, Young explained: “No one knows. That’s the thing. Just why they were born with cerebral palsy is a question that Pegi [Young’s wife] and I ask, and Carrie [Snodgress, Zeke’s mother] and I ask. There’s no way to tell. My third child, Amber, is just a little flower, growing like a little flower should. It took Pegi a lot of preparation to get ready to have another kid because it was really hard for us to face the chance that things might not work out right.
“But so many doctors told us that it had nothing to do with anything. I went and got myself checked, because I was the father of both kids. And the doctors said, ‘It may be hard for you to believe this, but you had two kids, and there’s no connection between them at all. It’s a fluke that both have cerebral palsy.’
“Often in my life I’ve felt that I was singled out for one reason or another for extreme things to happen. This was hard to deal with. We’ve been dealing with it, and we’ve learned to turn it around into a positive thing and to keep on going. It was something that brought Pegi and I really close together, just having the strength to have another child and having her be such a beautiful little girl and having everything work out. Just believing. Coming around to believing that it’s okay for us to try again,” Young said.
When Amber Jean grew up, this moment touched Young greatly as his youngest flew the nest and went to college. Despite being his youngest, she was the first who was no longer dependent on him, but, Young laid out his emotions in the way he best knows how through music.
The 2005 track, ‘Here For You’, sees Young lay out his unconditional love for his daughter no matter what happens and the emotion pours out of every single note. On the first verse, Young sings: “When your summer days come tumbling down, And you find yourself alone, Then you can come back and be with me, Just close your eyes and I’ll be there, Listen to the sound, Of this old heart beating for you, Yes I’d miss you, But I never want to hold you down, You might say I’m here for you.”
‘Here For You’ isn’t Young making an embolden political message or a statement, the message of the song is heartfelt yet straightforward and sees him completely lay his heart on the line for Amber Jean. The song proves how much his daughter means to him and how no piece of work he will ever produce will make him half as proud as his family.