The older I get, the more I find myself listening to Neil Young. I first really got into Neil Young in 1989 when "Rockin' in the Free World" broke on Q107. Prior to that, I was only familiar with Neil Young's classic hits like "Heart of Gold", "Ohio" and "Old Man". "Rockin' in the Free World" became an instant favourite of mine and I started delving into the Neil Young catalogue.
One of the first things I did was pick up Decade, a couple of CDs that contains thirty-five of Young's songs recorded between 1966 and 1976. That's how I experienced "Cinnamon Girl", "Down by the River", "Cowgirl in the Sand", "After the Gold Rush", "Southern Man", "Helpless", "The Needle and the Damage Done", "Tonight's the Night, Part 1", "Like A Hurricane" and "Long May You Run" for the first time. Needless to say, I liked what I heard.
In 1995 I was blessed when one of my favourite rock bands collided with Neil Young and produced Mirror Ball and Merkin Ball. Both were added to my collection instantly and are still beloved. Prior to this, Pearl Jam and Neil Young blew my mind by collaborating on "Rockin' in the Free World" at the MTV Music Awards in 1993. Pearl Jam continues to cover this tune in concert, much to my delight.
There's a reason I easily named him my favourite Torontonian, consider "Rockin' In The Free World" to be our other anthem, listed two Young songs in my Ten Canadian Tracks and consider this picture the epitomy of photographic zen.
Whenever it's time to debate who is the world's greatest living songwriter, I stand firmly in Neil Young's camp. Sure, I accept the many arguments it might be Bob Dylan, but I believe it's Neil. When was the last time you listened to the tunes on Decade, checked out Rust Never Sleeps, Freedom or Harvest Moon? Revisit these tunes and you'll see why.