Neil Young Had One Song That Took Him A Decade To Write
Neil Young in an interview, 2005 - Team Coco / Youtube
Songwriting is a dynamic and evolving process, often marked by a meticulous crafting of words and melodies. For prolific rock legend Neil Young, this process took an unexpected turn with one particular song that spent a decade in the shadows before finding its way to the public.
Neil Young, known for his prolific songwriting in rock history, has a unique approach to his craft.
He cares little about perfection in the mix, embracing disheveled moments, even including out-of-tune elements that somehow fit perfectly into the essence of albums like Tonight’s the Night and Zuma.
As Young navigated the 1980s, his exploration of different genres took unexpected turns. Signed to Geffen Records, he embarked on a diverse musical journey, experimenting with synthesizers in “Trans” and exploring rockabilly sounds in “Everybody’s Rockin’.” Despite these creative detours, Young eventually returned to the rootsy rock that initially propelled him to stardom. Albums like “Old Ways” saw him reconnecting with the sounds of country music, reminiscent of his work on “Harvest” and collaborations with Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
In the midst of these creative shifts, an exceptional song emerged – ‘Depression Blues.’ Despite its brilliance, the song remained unreleased for over a decade, absent from the final album. Young’s focus was on creating a cohesive record, and ‘Depression Blues’ found its first release during Young’s involvement in charity albums for the initial Farm Aid relief concerts.
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During this period, Young faced a lawsuit with his record company for deviating from the expected rock and roll albums.
However, with the release of “Freedom,” Young solidified his role as a forefather of the grunge rock movement, resonating with disenfranchised youth globally, akin to the impact of bands like Pearl Jam.
While ‘Depression Blues’ didn’t make it to the final album, its studio version eventually surfaced on the compilation “Lucky Thirteen,” featuring songs from Young’s Geffen years. The song seamlessly fits into the country aesthetic of the project, reflecting Young’s contemplation of rural struggles, depicting a humble farmer navigating the challenges of The Great Depression in the 1930s.
As Young orchestrated Farm Aid, ‘Depression Blues’ emerged as a reflection of rural hardships. In contrast to the label’s expectations, Young chose to provide what the people needed rather than conforming to industry expectations. This untold story of ‘Depression Blues’ adds a poignant chapter to Neil Young’s musical journey, showcasing the complexity of his creative process and the timeless themes that continue to resonate with audiences.