Happy birthday, Neil Young (1945-). Born in Winnipeg, Canada, he started playing music at 13 with a ukulele his parents gave him for Christmas. He switched to guitar and cut his first record at age 21.
"I'm open all the time. There's never a shortage of things to write about, if you pay attention to other people," he once explained.
For over 30 years and 20 albums, Young has rocked, wailed, grunged, and experimented... always remaining true to the integrity of his musical vision.
"As soon as you start talking about mystique, you have none," said the recluse rocker.
In the spring of 1970, Young wrote Ohio, inspired by the tragic killings of four Kent State students at an anti-Vietnam rally.
"It's hard to believe I had to write this song," he admitted. "Probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning." Calling it his best Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (CSNY) cut, Young said David Crosby cried after the song's first take.
Flying solo, jamming with Pearl Jam, or reuniting with Crazy Horse or CSN, Young maintains his musical maverick status, declining most interviews and thumbing his nose at commercialism. He continues to set the standard, writing some of music's most intelligent lyrics, from his heart.
"I feel real good about the music I'm playing now. It's something that I believe in and that I'm comfortable with. It's real; it's what's really happening to me now in my life," he said.
In addition to his vast musical achievements, Young remains committed to philanthropic work. On the board of Farm Aid since its 1985 inception, he continues to raise funds (along with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews) to keep family farmers on their land.
Young and his wife Pegi also helped establish the Bridge School in 1986, an educational program to help students struggling with speech and physical impairments. Passionately dedicated to the program, Neil's annual fundraising concert has been an annual Northern California tradition.
How can you run when you know?