The Ten Best Neil Young Songs

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Danny Hurley
Neil Young is simply beyond common musical criticism. Certainly among all of the classic folk, folk-rock and rock the man has recorded over the past 50 years, there have been some clunker albums. However, the sheer breadth of Young's influence on an amazing array of artists in several differing genres is fairly mind-boggling.

In honor of the man playing not one, but two shows, tonight and tomorrow night at The Meyerson, here is a respectful attempt to list 10 gems that only begin to skim the surface of the greatness that is Neil Young.

1. "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"
Off 1979's Rust Never Sleeps, the bone-crunching riff of the album's closing track still resonates some three decades after the fact. Offhandedly dedicated to the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten, "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" is a song that introduced Young's older audience with a whole new generation of punks.

2. "Tonight's The Night"
The title track to young's 1975 effort, "Tonight's the Night" is a ragged tribute to friends lost to drugs. It's a sad, yearning mess of a song; one that still gives me goosebumps.

3. "For the Turnstiles"
From 1974's On the Beach, "For the Turnstiles" features one of Young's best vocal performances. With banjo in hand, Young dives into a harsh Americana territory that refuses to kowtow to the banalities of folk and/or rock.

4. "Powderfinger"
Yet another from Rust Never Sleeps, "Powderfinger" is a song about defending your family that gloriously opened the rocking side of the original album. Some say the rocking songs from Rust were Young's attempt to keep up with punk. If so, thank you punk rock.

5. "Down by the River"
An epic from 1969's Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, "Down by the River" is a murder ballad supposedly written when Young was delirious with fever. In any case, it's a wonderfully warped and distorted extended jam that always seems to end too soon.

Location Info


Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

2301 Flora St., Dallas, TX

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Top 5

5. Rockin' in the Free World-His comeback song for the 90's after the weirdness of the 80's. Closest thing he has written to a sing along rock anthem.

4. Cinnamon Girl-The song that defined his sound with Crazy Horse. It sounds a fresh and infectious as it did 45 years ago.

3. Ramada Inn-Neil has many unforgettable guitar monsters (Down by the River, Cortez the Killer, Like a Hurricane) but his greatest guitar performance came 46 years after his start. How many other rock artists have created one of their greatest songs that deep into their careers?

2. Old Man-My personal favorite song of all time, not just of Neil's. I've listened to it a million times in the past 40+ years, and every time it sounds better than it did before. 

1. Hey Hey My My Out of the Blue/My My Hey Hey Into the Black-These bookends define his songwriting and performing better than any other songs. The acoustic version is ethereal, sardonic and and aching-the harmonic riff as the end always grabs my guts. The electric version is a bomb, a sledgehammer, a defiant roar. Someone described it well saying that the first time he played the record he thought his speakers had blown out.


I'd put The Needle and the Damage Done at No. 1. It's amazing how simple, yet hauntingly beautiful that song is.


What about "Helpless" from The Last Waltz!


This is an actually good list.

I might slip in "Love and Only Love" from the WELD record, but I respect your list.


One of my favorites is 'Long May You Run.' but i like those on this list, too.


My brother and I just exchanged our lists of top 10 most underrated Young songs last week! Have you been reading my mail or just work for the NSA.???

Top Ten Most underrated Neil Young Songs:

1.The Loner- Perfect song with hints of shear genius and so much more to come.

2.Lotta of Love- This has become an outright American standard over the years. Perfect.

3.Mr. Soul- Super cool 60’s psychedelic pop from a true balladeer’s darker side.

4.On the way Home- His clever and sunny Buffalo Springfield tune sang righteously “live at Massey Hall”

5.Ohio- The best period piece ever written with soaring vocals and strong visuals.

6.Tonight’s the Night- Haunting, pure, moving, scraggly recorded ode to the damage done.

7.Everybody knows this Nowhere-Laid back happy but not simple opening song on one of my first 8 tack tapes.

8.Going Back-Again a great album opener so thoughtful & angelic, setting the table for one of the best sets of music ever recorded.

9.Comes a Time- Another ideal sing-a-long song surrounded by a nostalgic fiddle ringing out for more.

10.Oh lonesome Me-- Hankies all around while Young sadly and beautifully cries out for love

11.I’ve been waiting for You-Classic Young opening cords with his searching, weeping guitar. No one else could write.

Honorable Mention: When you Dance, Mansion on the Hill


@Nick  Yes, helpless is mighty. let's put that at #11. there were a bunch of songs at the edge of this list. 

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