Cover of German issue single
|Single by Neil Young & Crazy Horse|
|from the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere|
|Released||April 20, 1970|
|Format||45 rpm Record|
|Recorded||March 20, 1969 at Wally Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA|
|Neil Young & Crazy Horse singles chronology|
"Cinnamon Girl" is a song by Neil Young. It debuted on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which was also Young's first album with backing band Crazy Horse. Released as a single the following year, it reached #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
Like two other songs from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River," Young wrote "Cinnamon Girl" while he was suffering from the flu with a high fever at his home in Topanga, California.
This song displays the very prominent role played by Danny Whitten in the sound of Young's early recordings. The vocals are a duet, with Whitten singing the high harmony against Young's low harmony. (The 45 rpm single mix of the song, in addition to being in mono and cutting off the guitar outro, features Whitten's vocal more prominently than the album version.) Young performed the song on his then-recently acquired Gibson Les Paul, "Old Black".
The song was written in double-drop D tuning (DADGBD). This tuning is used in several of his most famous songs, such as "The Loner", "The Old Laughing Lady", "When You Dance I Can Really Love", "Ohio", and "Cortez the Killer". The music features a prominent descending bass guitar line.
The lyrics have the singer daydreaming for a girl to love, singing that he waits "between shows" for his lover. Young has claimed that he wrote the song "for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me through Phil Ochs' eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife." The city girl playing finger cymbals is a reference to folk singer Jean Ray. Music critic Johnny Rogan described the lyrics as "exotic and allusive without really saying anything at all." Critic Toby Creswell describes the lyrics as "cryptic love lyrics" noting that they are sung "over the crunching power of Crazy Horse." Critic John Mendelsohn felt the song conveyed a message of "desperation begetting brutal vindictiveness," hinted at by the "almost impenetrably subjective words" but carried strongly by the sound of Crazy Horse's "heavy, sinister accompaniment." Introducing the song at a performance associated with Writer's Week at Whittier College (California) in April, 2015, Los Lobos co-founder Louie Perez said that when he first heard "Cinnamon Girl," he was sure it was about a Mexican girl.
"Cinnamon Girl" has been covered by many artists:
- The Gentrys recorded a version for a 1970 single release on Sun Records
- Type O Negative on their 1996 album October Rust.
- Replicants on their 1995 self-titled album
- John Entwistle of The Who recorded a version of the song as an outtake for his 1971 solo album Smash Your Head Against the Wall.
- The Smashing Pumpkins released a version on the 2012 reissue of Pisces Iscariot.
- Wilco and members of My Morning Jacket have performed the song at various stops on the 2013 Americanarama Music Festival tour.
- Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs on their album, Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (2006)
- Danish band Kashmir performed a cover version on their live CD/DVD The Aftermath.
- Phish has covered the song a total of three times, once at Gallagher's in Vermont on 3/1/1989, and twice during their 1997 tours. 
- The Dream Syndicate included a version on their 1986 album Out of the Grey.
- Radiohead is known to have played the song live on several occasions and bootlegs are common on YouTube.
- Williamson, N. (2002). Journey Through the Past: The Stories Behind the Classic Songs of Neil Young. Hal Leonard. pp. 27–28. ISBN 9780879307417.
- Creswell, T. (2006). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 267, 372. ISBN 1560259159.
- Rogan, J. (1996). The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young. Omnibus Press. p. 18. ISBN 0711953996.
- Bielen, K. (2008). The Words and Music of Neil Young. Praeger. p. 11. ISBN 0275999025.
- Planer, Lindsay (2008). "'Cinnamon Girl' review", AllMusic.