|Single by Neil Young and Crazy Horse|
|from the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere|
|Released||April 20, 1970|
|Recorded||March 20, 1969 at Wally Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA|
|Neil Young and Crazy Horse singles chronology|
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 NME named "Cinnamon Girl" an example of "proto-grunge from 1969".
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 song's "one note guitar solo", consisting largely of a repeating, sharply played jangling D note, has often been singled out for praise. According to Young "people say that it is a solo with only one note but, in my head, each one of those notes is different. The more you get into it, the more you can hear the differences.”
The lyrics have the singer daydreaming for a girl to love, singing that he waits "between shows" for his lover. Young has said 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. People[according to whom?] have also speculated whether or not the song referred to Jim Morrison's common-law wife, Pamela Courson. Jim and Pamela were part of the Topanga community around this time, and Pamela had red-brown hair reminiscent of cinnamon. She was a well-known groupie on Sunset Strip prior to meeting Jim. Young has denied, however, that the song refers to her.
Legacy and influence
"Cinnamon Girl" has been covered by many artists:
- The Gentrys recorded a version for a 1970 single release on Sun Records.
- Hole recorded an instrumental cover of the song on their 1991 album Pretty on the Inside.
- 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 Who performed a short snippet of the song at the Tanglewood Music Center, in Lenox, Massachusetts on 7/7/1970.
- 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 four times, once at Gallagher's in Vermont on 3/1/1989, twice during their 1997 tours, and once at Madison Square Garden on 07/29/2017.
- The Dream Syndicate included a version on their 1986 album Out of the Grey.
- Andy Curran covered the song on the Neil Young tribute album Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute to Neil Young.
- Radiohead is known to have played the song live on several occasions and bootlegs are common on YouTube.
- Foo Fighters covered this song live at their first of two Toronto, Ontario, Canada shows on July 8, 2015.
- The Madison, Wisconsin-based noise rock band Killdozer (band) covered this song for their 1985 album Snake Boy.
- The 8th track on Boyd Tinsley's solo album True Reflections.
- Mudhoney incorporated the outro of "Cinnamon Girl" into the song "Broken Hands" on their 1991 album Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.
- The Pretty Reckless did a live acoustic version for SiriusXM octane with Shannon Gunz in January 2017.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic covered the song as part of Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour in New York on March 23, 2018.
- "50 Greatest Guitar Riffs Of All Time". NME. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
- 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 978-1560259152.
- "HyperRust: It's All One Song! - Neil's Tunings". hyperrust.org. Retrieved 2018-01-18.
- Rogan, J. (1996). The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young. Omnibus Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0711953994.
- Ben, Party. "Music: Great One-Note Guitar Solos". Mother Jones. Mother Jones. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- "The 10 Best Solos of Neil Young". Guitars Exchange. Retrieved 2018-10-08.
- Bielen, K. (2008). The Words and Music of Neil Young. Praeger. p. 11. ISBN 978-0275999025.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-05. Retrieved 2015-05-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 935.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 123. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Cinnamon Girl History". Phish.net. Retrieved 2016-10-03.
- "EMI & Canal + Present Kid A : Amnesiac In Paris". radiohead.com. 2001-04-28. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
- ""Weird Al" Yankovic - 77 Cover Songs". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
- Planer, Lindsay (2008). "'Cinnamon Girl' review", AllMusic.