Heart of Gold (Neil Young song)
|"Heart of Gold"|
|Single by Neil Young|
|from the album Harvest|
|Released||January 1972 (U.S.)|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Recorded||February 6–7, 1971|
|Studio||Quadrafonic Sound, Nashville, Tennessee|
|Neil Young singles chronology|
"Heart of Gold" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young. Released from the 1972 album Harvest, it is so far Young's only U.S. No. 1 single. In Canada, it reached No. 1 on the RPM national singles chart for the first time on April 8, 1972, on which date Young held the top spot on both the singles and albums charts. Billboard ranked it as the No. 17 song for 1972. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 297 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and No. 303 in an updated 2010 list.
The song, which features backup vocals by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, is one of a series of soft acoustic pieces which were written partly as a result of a back injury. Unable to stand for long periods of time, Young could not play his electric guitar and so returned to his acoustic guitar, which he could play sitting down. He also played his harmonica during the three instrumental portions, including the introduction to the song.
"Heart of Gold" was recorded during the initial sessions for Harvest on February 6–-8 1971 at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Ronstadt (who herself would later cover Young's song "Love Is a Rose") and Taylor were in Nashville at the time for an appearance on Johnny Cash's television program, and the album's producer Elliot Mazer arranged for them to sing backup for Young in the studio.
Young played this song in 1971 solo shows before recording it. At a January 19 concert (preserved on Live at Massey Hall 1971, released in 2007) he played it on piano, starting with "A Man Needs a Maid" and then segueing into this song. By the time of Harvest he had separated the two songs and played "Heart of Gold" on guitar and harmonica.
Young wrote in the liner notes of his 1977 compilation album Decade: "This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there." This statement was in response to the mainstream popularity that he gained as a result of the number-one status of "Heart of Gold".
The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about '72 and the big song at the time was "Heart of Gold". I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to "Heart of Gold." I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I'd say, "Shit, that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me."
Willie Nelson and other covers
- A cover by Willie Nelson peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1987.
- A cover by Charles Bradley was released by Daptone Records
- Boney M covered the song on the album Nightflight to Venus, released in 1978.
- Johnny Cash covered the song on his 2003 posthumous box set Unearthed.
- Tori Amos covered the song on her album Strange Little Girls, released in 2001.
- Passenger covered the song on his covers album Sunday Night Sessions, released in 2017.
- Kacey Musgraves covered the song on her demo album Kacey Musgraves, released in 2007.
- Bettye LaVette covered the song on her compilation album Souvenirs, released in 2000.
- James Taylor covered the song live at Young's award ceremony for MusiCares Person of the Year in 2010.
- Superfly on their 2010 album Wildflower and Cover Songs: Complete Best.
In 2005, "Heart of Gold" was named the third greatest Canadian song of all time on the CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. It ranked behind only Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000" and Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds", the latter covered by Young on his 1978 album Comes a Time.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||14|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||30|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||17|
|Canada Top Singles (RPM)||1|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||9|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||8|
|New Zealand (Listener)||10|
|South Africa (Springbok Radio)||8|
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||10|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Easy Listening||8|
|West Germany (Official German Charts)||6|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
- Neil Young — lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
- Teddy Irwin — guitar
- Ben Keith — pedal steel guitar
- Tim Drummond — bass
- Kenny Buttrey — drums
- James Taylor — backing vocals
- Linda Ronstadt — backing vocals
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- The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone. Issue 963, December 9, 2004.
- The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time - Neil Young, Heart of Gold. Rolling Stone. 2010.
- McDonough, Jim, Shakey, Random 2002, pp. 352-354, 370.
- Crowe, Cameron, Neil Young, the Last American Hero. Rolling Stone, February 8, 1989, webpage found 2007-11-29.
- on YouTube
- "Thrasher", Neil Young's Heart of Gold, web page found 2007-11-29.
- Elliot Mazer, Neil Young's Heart of Gold Archived 2004-11-22 at the Wayback Machine. In Mix, 2001-05-01, webpage found 2007-11-29.
- Bob Dylan: Not Like a Rolling Stone Interview December 1985 Spin.
- Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
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- "RPM100 Singles" (PDF). RPM. 8 April 1972. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
- "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). InfoDisc. 1972-02-10. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
- "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Heart of Gold". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Neil Young" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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- Flavour of New Zealand, 15 May 1972
- "Norwegiancharts.com – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". VG-lista.
- "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
- "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
- Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 263.
- "Offiziellecharts.de – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- "British single certifications – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
- "American single certifications – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 29, 2020. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.