Top 10 Neil Young Love Songs
Neil Young love songs at their best — and they're usually pretty great — reveal his particular talent for using words to illustrate the many different emotional sides of a romantic relationship. From heartbreak to happiness, Young has captured the familiar romantic plotlines and quandaries with his music. As he celebrates his 66th birthday today, here's a look at the Top 10 Neil Young Love Songs:
With 'Comes A Time,' Young gives the listener plenty of room to dream, sharing the lyrics “You and I / We were captured / We took our souls and we flew away / We were right / We were giving / That's how we kept what we gave away.” Suddenly, settling down doesn't seem like such a bad idea, does it?
2010's 'Le Noise' brought this gem, which finds Neil still grateful for companionship and making a simple pact with his longtime love. “I'll never let you down / No matter what you do / If you just walk with me / And let me walk with you.” It's also possible that this constantly exploring (heck, sometimes flat-out challenging) artist is thanking his fans for their love in sticking with him through his many stylistic changes over the years.
Young distills some of his most brilliant romantic advice lyrically within 'Love To Burn,' which appeared on his 1990 'Ragged Glory' release. Love is recast as a form of currency. He warns the listener not to build up a surplus, but to spend it instead: “You better take a chance on love / You got to let your guard down.” Sure, there will be quarreling and disagreement on the way to eventual happiness, but he makes it sound like a price worth paying here.
When bandmate Graham Nash broke up with Joni Mitchell, the fallout provided inspiration for 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart,' although for years, many speculated that Young had written the track for Stephen Stills. The lyrics are poignant, with Neil reaching back to adolescent times as he often does, asking “When you were young and on your own / How did it feel to be alone?” The song perfectly captures the moment when a relationship ends and you find yourself trying to remember what life on your own was like.
'Dance' came in the midst of a prolific period for Young, who released two solo albums and an album with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a year's time. 'Dance' details love in its most basic terms: the tingling senses and the open desire to share a previously unseen side of one's self with another. For the many who have mingled with circumstance and done a similar “dance,” it's a very identifiable feeling.
The moon has been a frequent point of inspiration for Young through the years. The title track for his 1993 sequel to the original 'Harvest' album found Neil professing his continued love for his better half and a desire that still burns to dream and “feel the night” together. And doesn't it sound nice, the thought that “Just like children sleepin' / We could dream this night away.”
Inspired initially by his much-loved Pontiac hearse, which he nicknamed “Mort,” 'Long May You Run' has become an anthem Young uses to pay tribute to departed friends, such as when his longtime collaborator Ben Keith passed away last year. The song can also be applied to the long journey and shared experiences of any pairing, whether it is husband and wife, brother to sister or friend to friend. It eloquently promises lifetime dedication, love and respect for the person with whom the narrator has traveled with down so many roads.
Running through the night, Young says “You see us together / Chasing the moonlight”, providing a familiar visual to all who have spent an adventurous late weekend night following a new, mysterious feeling that that acts as an unavoidable tractor beam. As Neil later related, the song left him with some difficult explaining to do to his wife at the time regarding the subject matter. (“Exactly who were you running off with, where?”)
Musically, 'Hurricane' more than matches the intensity of the desire that runs through its lyrics, which were inspired by a girl Young met in a bar. Alas, their meeting bore no fruit, leaving him to exorcise his romantic demons in song. He started with a singular lyric, “You are like a hurricane / There's calm in your eye” which eventually proved potent enough to spawn the song that stands as one of his most beloved epics.
The “fine line” which Young details in 'Heart of Gold' is often the subtle detail that swings the pendulum from happiness to heartbreak. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt guest on the track, which found Taylor playing banjo for the first time. 'Heart' was not only one of Neil's most successful singles, it also reportedly made Bob Dylan -– who felt that the song sounded an awful lot like one of his own tunes –- very jealous that he hadn't written it himself.