Neil Young is an artist who has a potent way with words, a skill only matched by his powerful guitar playing and, when placed together, it fuses to create a jaw-dropping talent. Shakey effortlessly dims the line between poetry and music, and the first song he ever learned to play is an undisputable classic.
Young’s artistry is inexhaustible, and even now he’s deep into his 70s, that itch to constantly create is still as visible as ever. Ever since his days as a dream-chasing troubadour, which took him to Toronto as a teenager, Young’s thirst to create has never grown old, and his journey into falling in love with music was the same as millions.
Unsurprisingly, his first love affair with music came from The Beatles, who helped the budding artist understand the endless possibilities and emotions that could come from instrumentation coupled with melody. Over the years, he’s grown close to Paul McCartney, even inducting him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. Young will always be appreciative of The Fab Four for lighting up his childhood and being the gateway drug needed to turn him into a troubadour.
During that speech, Young also spoke about his love of Paul McCartney’s debut album as well as The Beatles, commenting: “I loved that record because it was so simple,” he said at the time. “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.”
However, the most touching moment in the speech came when Young revealed that the first song he learned to play when he was a kid was by The Beatles. “The first song I learned to play was a Beatles song, ‘Money, (That’s What I Want)’. Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters ever. He’ll be remembered hundreds of years from now,” he said.
His deep-rooted love affair with the group goes further than that, and when he was at High School, Young became a one-man tribute band to them as he brought a slice of Merseyside to Winnipeg. “I remember singing Beatles tunes,” he told Rolling Stone in 1975. “The first song I ever sang in front of people was It Won’t Be Long, and then Money (That’s What I Want). That was in Calvin High School [Winnipeg] cafeteria. My big moment.”
The impact of The Beatles is impossible to put into words whether you were a child in Canada like Neil Young or from their doorstep in Liverpool, their music infected and inspired the lives of people worldwide. They provided Young with the tools necessary to take that first plunge and sing live for the first time. Their accessibility made music seem like it was something that anybody could turn their hand to, and if they could do it, then so could I.
Unfortunately, there’s no footage of Neil Young playing the cafeteria of Calvin High School, but this clip of him performing with Paul McCartney at Hyde Park is a worthy consolation.