Neil Young is known well for his solo career, as well as for his work in bands such as Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He is not just known for his guitar and vocal skills, but for his songwriting abilities as well. He is best known for his country rock and folk rock sound, but he has also played around with genres such as swing from time to time. His heartland rock style is benefitted from his clawhammer guitar technique, and he has been known to accompany himself on harmonica and piano from time to time as well.
Young’s style of singing is fairly notable as well, and his songwriting methods tend to go hand in hand with his vocal style. He writes songs that showcase his countertenor vocal range, and he imbues them with lyrics that match his personal feelings and character at the time of writing. This can be seen in the album Zuma, on which he sings about romantic breakups and fears in songs such as “Lookin’ for a Love” and “Pardon My Heart.” The album also contains one of his most famous songs, “Cortez the Killer.”
Zuma isn’t just notable for songs like “Pardon My Heart” and “Cortez the Killer,” but because it is one of the albums on which Young collaborated with the band Crazy Horse. He had a tendency to experiment with harder rock sounds than usual when working with Crazy Horse, and his common nickname (“Godfather of Grunge”) can be largely attributed to the guitar solos that he performed with the band. The style that Young adopted when working with Crazy Horse would eventually inspire other bands that were highly influential in the advent of the grunge movement, such as the Pixies and the Meat Puppets.
Even without Crazy Horse, Young was capable of rocking hard. Just before releasing Zuma, he released Tonight’s the Night. While members of Crazy Horse assisted him on the album, only one song was included that featured the proper lineup of the band. This track was included party in tribute of their guitarist, Danny Whitten, who had written the track and who had just recently succumbed to a drug overdose. Young knew how to be sentimental, even when blasting rock and roll sounds so loud that the mics distorted and left sections of the album difficult to hear. Again, Young was the kind of guy who played and wrote what he felt. It wasn’t about finesse, but about the raw passion he brought to his music.
Neil Young’s work with Crazy Horse helped to both create and popularize grunge music, but this is not by far the only reason that he is still well-known today. He is known primarily for his voice as well as the deeply personal songs that he wrote throughout the early years of his career, whether on his own or as part of a larger ensemble. He continues to inspire singers and songwriters with his honest and dedicated approach to his craft.
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