Dopo aver debuttato giovanissimo con la storica formazione dei Buffalo Springfield e aver raggiunto il successo nel supergruppo Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Neil si è imposto come uno dei più carismatici e influenti cantautori degli anni settanta, contribuendo a ridefinire la figura del songwriter con album come After the Gold Rush e il vendutissimo Harvest.
Artista solitario e tormentato, capace di passare con disinvoltura dalla quiete della ballata acustica alla brutalità della cavalcata rock, per l’approccio spesso volutamente “grezzo” che contraddistingue tanto i suoi dischi quanto i suoi concerti è stato considerato da alcuni un precursore del punk, mentre la ruvida passione delle sue performance ha spinto tanto la critica quanto gli appassionati e gli stessi musicisti ad acclamarlo negli anni novanta padrino del grunge. È stato inoltre un personaggio determinante per l’evoluzione di generi come l’alternative country e l’alternative rock in generale.
Tratti inconfondibili del suo stile sono la voce acuta e nasale, la chitarra “sporca” e cacofonica, i testi introspettivi e malinconici (specie nella cosiddetta Trilogia del dolore, culminata nell’album Tonight’s the Night, da molti ritenuto il primo concept album della storia del rock a misurarsi con temi quali il dolore e la perdita) nonché l’immancabile camicia di flanella, divenuta negli anni un autentico status symbol alternativo.
Neil Percival Young, OC OM (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician. He began performing in a group covering Shadowsinstrumentals in Canada in 1960, before moving to California in 1966, where he co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield together with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. He released his first album in 1968 and has since forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, spanning over 45 years and 35 studio albums, with a continuous and uncompromising exploration of musical styles. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes Young as “one of rock and roll’s greatest songwriters and performers”. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, first as a solo artist in 1995, and second as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.
Young’s music is characterized by his distinctive guitar work, deeply personal lyrics and characteristic alto or high tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments, including piano and harmonica, his idiosyncratic electric and clawhammer acoustic guitar playing are the defining characteristics of a varyingly ragged and melodic sound.
While Young has experimented with differing music styles throughout a varied career, including swing and electronic music, most of his best known work is either acousticfolk-rock and country rock or electric, amplified hard rock (most often in collaboration with the band Crazy Horse). Musical styles such as alternative rock and grunge also adopted elements from Young. His influence has caused some to dub him the “Godfather of Grunge“.
Young has directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979),Human Highway (1982), Greendale (2003), and CSNY/Déjà Vu (2008). He has also contributed to the soundtracks of films including Philadelphia (1993) and Dead Man(1995).
Young is an environmentalist and outspoken advocate for the welfare of small farmers, having co-founded in 1985 the benefit concert Farm Aid. He is currently working on a documentary about electric car technology, tentatively titled LincVolt. The project involves his 1959 Lincoln Continental converted to hybrid technology as an environmentalist statement. In 1986, Young helped found The Bridge School, an educational organization for children with severe verbal and physical disabilities, and its annual supporting Bridge School Benefit concerts, together with his ex-wife Pegi Young (née Morton). Young has three children: sons Zeke (born during his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgress) and Ben, who were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and daughter Amber Jean who, like Young, has epilepsy. Young lives on his ranch in La Honda, California. Although he has lived in northern California since the 1970s and sings as frequently about U.S. themes and subjects as he does about his native country, he has retained his Canadian citizenship. On July 14, 2006, Young was awarded the Order of Manitoba, and on December 30, 2009, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.