Heart of Gold (Neil Young song)
|"Heart of Gold"|
|Single by Neil Young|
|from the album Harvest|
|Released||January 1972 (U.S.)|
|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. 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. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 297 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, No. 303 in an updated 2010 list, and No. 259 in 2021.
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."
- Boney M covered the song to widespread acclaim on the album Nightflight to Venus, released in 1978
- A cover by Willie Nelson peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1987
- Roxette covered the song on their MTV Unplugged in 1993
- Bettye LaVette covered the song on her compilation album Souvenirs, released in 2000
- Black Label Society included a cover of the song on their 2-disc live album Alcohol Fueled Brewtality Live!! +5, released in 2000.
- Tori Amos covered the song on her album Strange Little Girls, released in 2001
- Johnny Cash covered the song (with Red Hot Chili Peppers) on his 2003 posthumous box set Unearthed
- Kacey Musgraves covered the song on her demo album Kacey Musgraves, released in 2007
- James Taylor covered the song live at Young's award ceremony for MusiCares Person of the Year in 2010
- Superfly covered the song on their 2010 album Wildflower and Cover Songs: Complete Best
- A cover by Charles Bradley was released in 2011 by Daptone Records
- Michael Sweet covered the song on his 2014 album I'm Not Your Suicide. An alternate version was released as a video and bonus track featuring Electra Mustaine.
- Passenger covered the song on his covers album Sunday Night Sessions, released in 2017
- Midnight Shine covered the song with elements of their Indigenous language, Mushkegowuk Cree, on the album High Road, released in 2018
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 (OCC)||10|
|US Billboard Hot 100||1|
|US Billboard Easy Listening||8|
|US Cashbox Top 100 Singles||1|
|US Record World Top 100 Singles||1|
|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
- 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.
- 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.”
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- "Heart of Gold ranked #259 on Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs List". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
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- 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.
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- Daptone Records 2011
- '50 Tracks' list of essential Canadian music, 2005
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- "Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
- "Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in French). Ultratop 50.
- "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.
- Okamoto, Satoshi (2011). Single Chart Book: Complete Edition 1968–2010 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. ISBN 978-4-87131-088-8.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Neil Young" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
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- Flavour of New Zealand, 15 May 1972
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- "Offiziellecharts.de – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved March 6, 2020. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON Neil Young"
- "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.