Neil Young’s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ provided him with his first commercially successful single in 1970, and since then, it’s taken on a life of its own including an inventive cover by Saint Etienne. However, the true defining production of the track came in 2004 when Young called upon Paul McCartney to give him a helping hand.
The pair are titans of the music industry that need no introduction, and the songs they eventually leave behind will continue to connect with the human heart for as long as there are people to stroll around the earth. However, despite everything that Neil Young has achieved, he can’t help sinking into a state of disbelief that Paul McCartney is now not only a fan of his work but a friend too.
The growth of their relationship has played out in public over the last few decades, but Young has been flying the flag for The Beatles ever since he was in high school. The first songs he performed live was ‘It Won’t Be Long’ and ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ by ‘The Fab Four’ at the cafeteria of Calvin High School in Winnipeg, which is where his love for performing was born.
Little did he suspect that one day, he’d be sharing the stage with one of The Beatles, and they’d be duetting a song that came from his pen. Moreover, he even had the honour of inducting McCartney into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
Young highlighted McCartney’s debut record during his arresting speech. “I loved that record because it was so simple,” he told the captivated crowd. “There was no attempt made to compete with the things he had already done. And so out he stepped from the shadow of the Beatles. Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters ever. He’ll be remembered hundreds of years from now.”
In 2004, McCartney replicated the love by appearing at Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit concert, raising money to educate children who suffer from learning difficulties. The school was founded in 1986 by Young’s then-wife, Pegi, out of necessity because she couldn’t find anywhere suitable for their son, Ben, who has cerebral palsy.
McCartney offered his services to the charitable cause on both nights of the benefit in 2004. On both occasions, Macca was joined on-stage halfway through his set by Young, and the illustrious duo beautifully combined for a chilling version of ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’.
See the footage, below.