Heart of Gold (Neil Young song)

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"Heart of Gold"
Heart of Gold by Neal Yound single cover.jpg
Single by Neil Young
from the album Harvest
B-side"Sugar Mountain"
ReleasedJanuary 1972 (U.S.)
RecordedFebruary 6–7, 1971
StudioQuadrafonic Sound, Nashville, Tennessee
Songwriter(s)Neil Young
Neil Young singles chronology
"When You Dance I Can Really Love"
"Heart of Gold"
"Old Man"
Audio sample

"Heart of Gold" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young. From his fourth album Harvest, it is 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.[5] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 297 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time,[6] No. 303 in an updated 2010 list,[7] and No. 259 in 2021.[8]


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.[9][10]

"Heart of Gold" was recorded during the initial sessions for Harvest on February 6–8, 1971, at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.[11] 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.[12][13]

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".

Young has stated that this song, as well as "Harvest" and "Out on the Weekend" from the same album, were inspired by his then blossoming love for actress Carrie Snodgress.[14]

In 1985, Bob Dylan said he disliked hearing the song, despite always liking Young:[15]

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."

Notable covers[edit]


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",[19] the latter covered by Young on his 1978 album Comes a Time.


Chart (1972) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[20] 14
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[21] 30
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[22] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[23] 1
France (IFOP)[24] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[25] 12
Japan (Oricon)[26] 28
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[27] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[28] 8
New Zealand (Listener)[29] 10
Norway (VG-lista)[30] 4
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[31] 8
UK Singles (OCC)[32] 10
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Easy Listening[33] 8
US Cashbox Top 100 Singles[34] 1
US Record World Top 100 Singles[35] 1
West Germany (Official German Charts)[36] 6


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[38] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.



  1. ^ Haeems, Neil (June 25, 2020). "Neil Young's sorrowful 'Homegrown' finally surfaces after 45 years". The Daily Californian. Retrieved October 21, 2020. Thanks to Helm, 'Separate Ways' sits perfectly beside Young classics such as 'Cinnamon Girl' and 'Heart of Gold' as one of the greatest contributions to folk-rock.
  2. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (February 27, 2006). "The Two Neil Youngs: Demme's Film Shows A Saccharine Singer". The Guardian Observer. Retrieved October 18, 2020. with a few older 'country-rock' throw-ins like “Heart of Gold.”
  3. ^ "Sound Familiar? 10 Famous Cameos That May Surprise You – 60s and 70s Pop – Oldies Music". May 26, 2015. Archived from the original on May 26, 2015.
  4. ^ "Harvest". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-07-21.
  5. ^ "Billboard Top 100 – 1972". Archived from the original on 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2011-01-02.
  6. ^ The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time Rolling Stone. Issue 963, December 9, 2004.
  7. ^ The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time - Neil Young, Heart of Gold. Rolling Stone. 2010.
  8. ^ "Heart of Gold ranked #259 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  9. ^ McDonough, Jim, Shakey, Random 2002, pp. 352-354, 370.
  10. ^ Crowe, Cameron, Neil Young, the Last American Hero. Rolling Stone, February 8, 1989, webpage found 2007-11-29.
  11. ^ See video recording on YouTube
  12. ^ "Thrasher", Neil Young's Heart of Gold, web page found 2007-11-29.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Neil Young (February 1, 2022). Neil Young Radio. Sirius XM.
  15. ^ Bob Dylan: Not Like a Rolling Stone Interview December 1985 Spin.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
  17. ^ "Superfly: Wildflower & Cover Songs: Complete Best". Discogs. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  18. ^ Daptone Records 2011
  19. ^ '50 Tracks' list of essential Canadian music, 2005
  20. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  21. ^ "Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  22. ^ "Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  23. ^ "RPM100 Singles" (PDF). RPM. 8 April 1972. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  24. ^ "Toutes les Chansons N° 1 des Années 70" (in French). InfoDisc. 1972-02-10. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  25. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Heart of Gold". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  26. ^ Okamoto, Satoshi (2011). Single Chart Book: Complete Edition 1968–2010 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. ISBN 978-4-87131-088-8.
  27. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Neil Young" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  28. ^ "Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  29. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 15 May 1972
  30. ^ "Neil Young – Heart of Gold". VG-lista.
  31. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  32. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  33. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 263.
  34. ^ "CASH BOX MAGAZINE: Music and coin machine magazine 1942 to 1996". worldradiohistory.com. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  35. ^ "RECORD WORLD MAGAZINE: 1942 to 1982". worldradiohistory.com. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  36. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved March 6, 2020. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Neil Young"
  37. ^ "British single certifications – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  38. ^ "American single certifications – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 29, 2020.