Neil Young might have a modern-day reputation of being a bit of a prickly idealist, but the truth is that Young is as giving and generous as an artist can be. As the appointed “Godfather of Grunge”, Young personally helped Pearl Jam make it out of their lowest point by recruiting the group as his backing band for the Mirror Ball album. Similarly, Young might enjoy dalliances with other groups, but he’s beyond loyal to his original band, Crazy Horse. He’s one of the rare figures who holds his personal morals and relationships with those he cares about above any monetary incentives.
He’s also badass enough to lead tributes to Jimi Hendrix and jam on stage with Led Zeppelin on separate occasions. Whether it’s strumming out heartbreaking acoustic songs or lighting up on fiery electric hard rock tunes, Young always delivers the goods. That’s why he’s the perfect figure to lead the charge against Spotify: few figures in music history are as respected or revered as Young, and he often is looked to for leadership.
But who does Young look to for inspiration? Musically, he’s an amalgamation of influences and genres: folk, garage rock, psychedelic rock, and even jazz would filter through his compositions. In order to connect with Young, an artist has to be at the very top of their game. So it’s no surprise which two artists Young pointed to in a 1979 Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe.
“I never forgot that every time a new Beatles or Dylan album came out, you knew they were way beyond it,” Young recalled. “They were always doing something else, always moving down the line.” That constant forward motion has served Young well: he’s never made the same album twice, and he’s been unafraid to lean into genres that weren’t necessarily in his wheelhouse. It’s not hard to see how The Beatles and Bob Dylan would be catalysts for that.
In an earlier 1975 Rolling Stone interview with Crowe, Young recalled that The Beatles were the band that originally got him motivated to get on stage and sing. “I remember singing Beatles tunes … the first song I ever sang in front of people was ‘It Won’t Be Long’, and then Money (That’s What I Want),” Young recalled. “That was in Calvin High School [Winnipeg] cafeteria. My big moment.”
Young would pay tribute to his two major influences by covering their work on stage: there was the time that Young famously covered ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ on his 1991 live album Weld. Young also has taken on ‘A Day in the Life’ as a set closer for some of his most recent tours, even sharing the stage with Paul McCartney on a few different occasions.