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The man Neil Young called "one of the greatest songwriters ever"

Neil Young is one of the most well-respected musicians on the planet. The ‘Godfather of Grunge’ has inspired so many to pick up the guitar and to try their hand at songwriting. Many of our favourite alternative artists from the 1980s, ’90s and beyond owe a lot to Young, and if you were to trace the lineage of alt-rock back to its roots, there at the start, you would find everybody’s favourite Canadian troubadour. 

Kurt Cobain, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, even Noel Gallagher have all discussed their love and respect for Neil Young at different points. Whether it be his work with Crazy Horse or solo material, Young’s introspective lyrics and gritty guitar sound became two key elements that would inform indie and alternative moving forward.

When you listen to his takes on 1969’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere or 1975’s Zuma, you realise just how ahead of his time he was. Whilst rock was at its most bloated and excessive point, Young was doing the most important thing, looking inwards and talking about tangible subjects, rather than the caped witchcraft and wizardry that was going on around him. 

It isn’t just subsequent artists that Young has the respect of either, his contemporaries are also huge fans. In 1995, the world witnessed something truly special when Young teamed up with esoteric rock behemoth Led Zeppelin, to provide a stellar rendition of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ as part of the celebrations of Neil Young’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

It doesn’t end there, either. In 1979, ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney sent Young a telegram which read: “Neil, Linda and I have been listening to Live Rust over and over, side four kicks ass. Lotta Love, Paul.” To receive this kind of praise from a Beatle was a huge thing for Young, as he, like everyone with any musical taste from his generation, loved the ‘Fab Four’.

In March 1999, Young was presented with the opportunity to give some love back to McCartney. He was chosen to induct McCartney in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s surprising that by that point, he wasn’t already a member. 

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Young said: “The first song I learned to play was a Beatles song – ‘Give Me Money, That’s What I Want’. Paul McCartney is one of the greatest songwriters ever. He’ll be remembered hundreds of years from now.”

It is no secret that Young and McCartney have since performed together on a handful of occasions and are good friends. Memorably, in October 2004, the pair reunited for the Adopt-A-Minefield benefit, which raises awareness and funds to clear minefields across the world. Performing in Los Angeles, Young played a stellar set which was followed by an equally dazzling McCartney set. The ex-Wings man brought Young back onstage for ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and ‘Hey Jude’.

During the set, McCartney told the audience: “We have a bit of fun but, as you can see, we do a lot of good along the way. That’s one of the magic things… When you’ve worked hard, and you’ve had a lot of luck, you get to a position where Neil and I are at; you can do a little bit more. It’s a magic thing.

Hopefully, one day Young and McCartney will reunite once again. A brilliant friendship, there’s no surprise that two of the world’s most well-respected songwriters are friends, and share a close mutual bond over their genius artistry. 

Watch Young induct McCartney into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame below.