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The only singer who had a “profound effect” on Neil Young

After watching the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and later the British Invasion, Canada seemed to be having its moment in the sun in the late 1960s. With Neil Young, Robbie Robertson’s The Band, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen making significant strides towards the singer-songwriter wave, Canada finally found a proud place on the musical map.

Neil Young hails from Ontario’s capital, Toronto, a vibrant urban epicenter in Canada. Despite these origins, his music is more representative of the country’s vast rural landscapes, from the southern farms to the tundra of the north. After breaking through with Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield, the songwriter embarked on a successful solo career, enhanced and colored by the involvement of his long-standing backing band, Crazy Horse.

Young’s solo material was often reminiscent of the national scene. As a youngster he first learned the ukulele before switching to the banjo and acoustic guitar. Such instruments are often associated with the country and folk styles that Young is fond of. His masterpiece in this format, from 1972 Harvestwas inspired in part by a recent move to rural California, where he purchased Broken Arrow Ranch.

In addition to his solo acoustic material, Young is also considered a rock star, thanks to his tendency to plug in and raise the decibels with Crazy Horse. Its electric and unrefined sound Rust never sleeps Young even earned the title ‘Godfather of Grunge’.

Young’s eclectic approach, which spans R&B, country, folk and rock, can be attributed to a wide range of crucial influences. As a young, ambitious musician, Jimmy Reed introduced him to the blues, Roscoe Holcomb to folk and Hank Williams to country. However, most of his early influences covered multiple bases under the rock ‘n’ roll banner.

Like most children of his generation, Young fell in love with the energetic piano rhythms of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. Yet he always felt more connected to guitar singers like Elvis Presley. As a ten-year-old, Young revered the king and picked up the ukulele to follow his first passion.

If Presley fueled Young’s early passion, it was Roy Orbison who inspired him to take things seriously and turn professional. In a conversation with Nick Kent in 1990, Young reflected on Orbison’s recent death, revealing the “Pretty Woman” singer as an inspiration, both as a singer and as a strong character. “I’ve always loved Roy,” he said. “I looked up to the way he was, admired the way he handled himself. That aloofness had a profound effect on me. It was the way he carried himself, you know, with this good-natured dignity.

Young has always maintained an open-hearted and uncompromising vision, which has remained unchanged by the influence of fame and media attention. In addition to this influence, Young remains a devoted fan of Orbison’s musical style. “Every album I’ve made, I’ve always put a piece of Roy Orbison. His influence is on so many of my songs,” Young added. “There’s a big Orbison tribute song on there Eldorado called ‘Don’t Cry’. That’s me completely under Roy Orbison’s spell. When I wrote and recorded it, I thought, ‘Roy Orbison meets trash metal.’”

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