43 Best Neil Young Songs

Best Neil Young Songs

Neil Young has arguably been one of the most influential musicians in rock music. He gained popularity during the 1960s and released several iconic tracks throughout the following decades.

If you're curious about his greatest hits, check out this list of the best Neil Young songs.


“See the Sky About to Rain” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1974

First up on this list of the top Neil Young songs is “See the Sky About to Rain,” a slow and melancholy single reflecting on the concept of predetermined fate, influenced by Young's disillusionment with the music industry.

Despite its solemn lyrics, it has a lovely guitar accompaniment, complemented by light vocals towards the song’s end. It featured on Young's album On the Beach, which ranked 13th on RPM's 100 Albums Chart.

“Rainin’ In My Heart” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1983

Originally written and performed by Slim Harpo, Neil Young's iteration of “Rainin' In My Heart” is the perfect song to listen to on a lonely night if you've experienced heartbreak.

The lyrics tell the story of a man regretting his actions and wishing for his former love to return to him. Its piano, guitar, and harmonica accompaniment give it a jazz-inspired sound.

“Sugar Mountain” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1977

Songs about growing up resonate with many music lovers. Neil Young's “Sugar Mountain” showcases the bittersweet nostalgia of youth in this mellow single. He initially wrote this track when he was 19, but recorded it a few years later.

The narrator compares youth to a county fair, full of fun and free of worries. Its limited guitar accompaniment goes well with Young's vocals. The song featured on the album, Decade, which ranked 71st on Record World's Album Chart.

“L.A.” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1973

One of the best Neil Young songs with a slightly rougher edge is “L.A.” This song's lyrics describe the destruction of Los Angeles, emphasized by lyrics referencing earthquakes, smog, and crowded streets. It has a slow tempo, which feeds into the song’s lyrics and tone.

“L.A.” was a featured track on Young's live album, Time Fades Away, which peaked within the top 30 of several international weekly charts, including RPM's 100 Albums Chart and Cash Box's Top 100 Albums Chart.

“Journey Through the Past” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1973

“Journey Through the Past” tells the story of a man remembering someone he loved and left behind after he moved. It's a great song to listen to if you miss somebody from your past and wonder if they still think about you.

Unlike many of Young's top songs, it doesn't incorporate guitars into its instrumentation. Instead, it has a slow piano backing track, focused on Young's vocals and lyrics about nostalgic lost love.

“Love Earth” by Neil Young ft. Crazy Horse

Song Year: 2022

“Love Earth” is a down-to-earth anthem dedicated to the beauty of our planet. Young's breathy vocals blend well with the song's subdued piano and guitar accompaniment. It's the perfect song to listen to on a warm, lazy afternoon in the park.

It appeared on Young’s 2022 album, World Record, which ranked within the Top 100 of several international weekly charts, including ARIA's Australian Digital Albums Chart and OCC's UK Albums Chart.

“A Man Needs A Maid” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

This Neil Young song is, at its core, about a man wanting to find a woman to love but worrying about the relationship failing, suggesting he's been in failed relationships. It's a relatable song for anyone struggling or nervous about finding love.

The song's piano and string accompaniment play into the emotions of Young's vocals, giving it a sentimental vibe that contrasts his more upbeat singles.

“Like A Hurricane” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

Neil Young wrote “Like a Hurricane” following a vocal cord operation, but we consider it one of our favorites because of its superb instrumental segments. The guitar, drum, bass guitar, and synthesizer accompaniment blend well between each solo.

The lyrics tell the story of a narrator remembering someone he loved, almost as if it were a dream. They compare his love's eyes with a hurricane, reinforcing the idea of her being unattainable.

Over the years, other artists recorded covers, including The Mission, Jay Farrar, and Jeffy Healy.

“Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1970

“Cinnamon Girl” is an upbeat track about a man's desire for a girl who matches his ideals. One of the inspirations behind Young's song stems from an encounter with a girl on the streets searching for a musician boyfriend.

This song appeared on the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, the first of many collaborating with the backing band Crazy Horse. It ranked 55th on Billboard’s Pop Singles Chart and Record World’s Pop Singles Chart.

“Down by the River” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1969

If you're interested in listening to one of the darker Neil Young songs on this list, consider adding “Down by the River” to your playlist. Although many interpret the lyrics as the story of a man shooting his wife after he catches her cheating, I interpret the song as a metaphor for mistrust.

It has a relaxed beat, with snare drums and electric guitars. This song was showcased on his critically-acclaimed album Down by the River.

“Cowgirl in the Sand” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1969

Another Neil Young song worth listening to is “Cowgirl in the Sand.” Many listeners interpret the lyrics as describing his ideal type of woman. However, Young claims he was influenced by Spain's lush beaches.

The song has lengthy guitar solos, making it an excellent song to immerse yourself in when you're looking for something to play around the house or blast in your car.

“Old Man” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

Neil Young wrote “Old Man” for an elderly caretaker of a ranch he bought in Northern California. You can interpret the lyrics as a message the narrator delivers to the older man. The singer states how, despite being born in different eras, they have the same desires and needs for living a satisfying life, such as love and companionship.

The instrumentation has a distinct country-like sound, giving the song a laid-back, down-to-earth tone. It ranked fourth on RPM’s Top Singles Chart and Billboard’s Hot 100.

“Powderfinger” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1979

“Powderfinger” is an iconic song thanks to its slower beat, guitar solos, and thematically dramatic story. The lyrics tell the story of a young man trying to defend his land and family from a gunboat instead of running away, resulting in his death.

The song ranked 450th on Rolling Stone's “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list in 2021. It’s the perfect song to listen to while working on projects in your home.

“Lookout Joe” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

Neil Young's “Lookout Joe” takes the perspective of a veteran returning from the Vietnam War, exploring how times have changed since the last time they were in the United States. This song poignantly captures the feeling of disillusion after what feels like forever.

It has an excellent guitar accompaniment and was a single on Young's album, Tonight's the Night, which peaked within the Top 40 of several US weekly charts.

“Tired Eyes” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

The main inspiration behind Neil Young's “Tired Eyes” stems from a deadly cocaine deal incident one of his friends got involved with a few years before the song's release. Young’s lyrics touch on the narrator's feelings that things shouldn't have ended this way, begging the fallen to rise back to life.

The song's slower beat and guitar, drum, and harmonica instrumentation give the song a tragic touch. Sometimes, the most movingly emotional songs stem from the worst situations.

“Albuquerque” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

Can't find any immersive songs to listen to during the loneliest days? “Albuquerque's” lyrics focus on the shallowness of fame and hauntingly reflect the feeling of solitude through its vocals and instrumentation. The pedal steel guitar and harmonica give this rock ballad a country touch.

This song might resonate with music lovers who drift from place to place, trying to find their purpose in the world. It’s the type of song you may hear while driving down a long highway or in a diner.

“Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

“Cortez the Killer” is a slow rock song with lyrics referencing the voyage of conquistador Hernán Cortés and the eventual fall of the Aztec Empire. The historical context of this song makes it stand out from Young's other iconic hits.

Although the vocals don't kick in until about halfway through the song, the guitar solo sets the mood and showcases its artistic presentation. You can’t go wrong listening to this history-infused track if you want to hear some of his finest guitar work.

“Danger Bird” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

“Danger Bird” is another of the best Neil Young songs if you're in the mood for slower hard rock music. The song's lyrics depicting a fossilized bird tell the tale of a failing romance, something Young experienced with Carrie Snodgrass.

It was one of several well-regarded songs on Zuma. That album sold over 5,000 units in the US and ranked 30th on Record World's Album Chart.

“Southern Man” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1970

One of Neil Young's most impactful songs of the 70s was “Southern Man.” It has a strong message about pushing back against discrimination and moving towards an era of change. The track features a rough guitar solo embodying the upward struggle toward peace for everyone in America.

“Southern Man” was recorded for Young's album After the Gold Rush, which peaked within the Top 20 of several international weekly charts.

“New Mama” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

Despite its short length, “New Mama” resonates with anybody starting a new family. Its main inspiration behind this song came from the birth of Neil Young's son when he was with Carrie Snodgrass.

The song's slower tempo and limited guitar and piano accompaniment enhance its lyrics' portrayal of how starting a family is a life-changing commitment.

“Unknown Legend” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1992

“Unknown Legend” has a laid-back tempo and an excellent guitar accompaniment that resonates with people who prefer laid-back rock songs. The lyrics tell the story of a mother who used to work at a diner and ride a motorcycle.

This song might resonate with people living simple lives who love remembering their past thrills. It was a featured track on the album Harvest Moon, which sold over two million copies in the US.

“Ohio” by Neil Young ft. Crosby, Stills & Nash

“Ohio” by Neil Young ft. Crosby, Stills & Nash

Song Year: 1970

After joining Crosby, Stills & Nash during the late 1960s, Young wrote “Ohio” after reading about the Kent State shootings during a student protest against the Vietnam War. This song's guitar, bass, and drum accompaniment blend well with the lyrics detailing the shock and outrage that followed the event.

Although several AM radio stations banned it due to its political tone, “Ohio” ranked 14th on Billboard's Hot 100. It got inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2009.

“Harvest Moon” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1992

Neil Young wrote and recorded “Harvest Moon” as a loving tribute to his wife, Pegi. The lyrics capture the feeling of long-lasting love, incorporating the imagery of dancing in the moonlight to represent their bond. Its main guitar riff gives the song an extra sentimental and romantic vibe.

“Harvest Moon” ranked fifth on RPM's Top Singles Chart and 36th on the UK Singles Chart in 1993. It’s a beautiful choice for any wedding anniversary party.

“Heart of Gold” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

Hailed as one of the best songs of the 70s, “Heart of Gold” is all about finding love and satisfaction in life. Young wrote the lyrics while he had a back injury, giving it a personal touch of hope to any looking for their situation in life to improve.

“Heart of Gold” topped several charts after its release, including Billboard's Hot 100, RPM's Hot Singles, and Record World's Top 100 Singles. It sold over a million certified units in the US.

“Angry World” by Neil Young

Song Year: 2010

“Angry World” is a top choice if you’re looking for music for venting your feelings when you feel frustrated. Young's vocals and guitar have a gruff edginess that injects deep energy into the piece, while the looping inclusion of the word “angry” make it sound hypnotic.

This song won Young’s first Grammy Award in 2011 for “Best Rock Song” and was nominated for “Best Solo Rock Performance.”

“The Loner” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1969

“The Loner” was the first single Neil Young recorded after his music group, Buffalo Springfield, disbanded. It has an upbeat vibe, helped along by its bass and guitar accompaniment. Some have speculated the lyrics describe Young himself, while others believe he wrote it about Stephen Stills.

Regardless of the inspiration, “The Loner” was a standout track on Young's debut solo album, Neil Young. Over the years, many artists recorded covers, including Stephen Stills in 1976 and Henry Kaiser in 1990.

“Sedan Delivery” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1979

One of the best Neil Young songs I consider one of my favorites is “Sedan Delivery.” This track has an upbeat guitar and drum backing track which dips into a slower tempo at a few points.

The lyrics incorporate plenty of outlandish imagery, adding to the song's hectic tone. Many believe “Sedan Delivery” is about a drug dealer making his round of deliveries. It’s worth listening to if you’re looking for a song that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“Out on the Weekend” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

“Out on the Weekend's” slower tempo matches well with the song's theme of loneliness after experiencing heartbreak. The lyrics tell the story of a man moving to a new place and his former love, comparing his experience to a new day's dawn after the weekend.

The slow guitar and harmonica backing tracks give it a country-like sound. It’s a comforting song to listen to on lonely Saturday nights.

“Love Is A Rose” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1977

“Love Is A Rose” beautifully incorporates a powerful metaphor about love. Love has positive and negative aspects, such as the beautiful growth of a relationship and the pain of heartbreak if it fails.

Over the years, several artists recorded covers, including Linda Ronstadt's country interpretation in 1975 and Terri Clark's iteration in 2012.

“After the Gold Rush” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1970

“After the Gold Rush” reflects on how humanity caused environmental destruction after centuries of expansion. It's the type of song that makes you think about what we'd do if our world can't support its life. The featured piano distinguishes this track from many of his famous guitar-centric songs.

Young included this record on an album of the same name. It ranked within the top 10 of several international charts.

“The Needle and the Damage Done” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

“The Needle and the Damage Done” is a song about addiction, a challenging theme that might speak to several avid music lovers. The acoustic guitar gives the song a melancholy mood. One of Young's bandmates, Danny Whitten, suffered through a heroin addiction before dying from an overdose, giving this track an extra layer of poignancy.

Several music groups recorded covers, with notable examples being Our Lady Peace, Duran Duran, and The Pretenders.

“Change Your Mind” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1994

“Change Your Mind” is the perfect song to listen to whenever you need extra motivation if you're feeling down. It's one of Neil Young's best songs showcasing his guitar skills, primarily because of the track's length. He wrote this track in memory of Kurt Kobain.

It ranked 18th on the Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart and was included on the album Sleeps with Angels.

“Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1979

This classic Neil Young song revolves around the feeling of becoming irrelevant as time marches on, something that many music artists find relatable. The narrator seems to be at war with himself, worrying about his stardom dwindling yet retaining hope that the spirit of rock and roll will never die.

This single was featured on several weekly charts, including the 79th spot on Billboard's Pop Singles Chart.

“Four Strong Winds” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1978

Originally written and recorded by Ian & Sylvia, Neil Young's version of “Four Strong Winds” is a song worth listening to on a quiet night. The lyrics portray a story about a failing love.

The narrator suggests he understands the relationship he and his lover had didn't work out, but he still hopes they can rekindle their bond, despite the odds.

“Lotta Love” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1978

Despite its upbeat guitar instrumentation, “Lotta Love” incorporates bittersweet lyrics about love. Building and changing a relationship takes plenty of time and effort, making this song relatable to anyone having difficulty finding love.

“Lotta Love” appeared on the album Comes a Time. During the same year, Nicolette Larson recorded a cover, giving the lyrics a more optimistic tone about love.

“Are You Ready for the Country” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

If you're looking for a fun country-rock song to play on your phone while driving with your friends, consider listening to “Are You Ready for the Country.” The song incorporates lyrics centered around dread, following the right or wrong path, and God versus death, giving it a slightly religious undertone.

Following the release of the single on Young's album Harvest, Waylon Jennings recorded a cover in 1976 that peaked on several country music charts.

“Harvest” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1972

“Harvest” is a Neil Young song you can listen to if you're facing the woes of love and can't shake the feeling of uncertainty. It's about a man wondering about his potential relationship with a woman and how much love he'll receive and embrace, curious if it will satisfy his expectations.

The song’s slow tempo embodies the feeling of uncertain love vividly as the guitar accompaniment gives it a distinctively country sound.

“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1970

Songs about the hardships of love resonate with all kinds of people, and Neil Young's “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” hits the mark with its relatability. This ballad expresses how love keeps people from becoming lonely, but makes them susceptible to heartbreak.

It ranked 33rd on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart. Since its release, several artists have recorded covers of this classic single, including Saint Etienne, Stephen Stills, and Florence and the Machine.

“Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1989

Although “Rockin' in the Free World” might sound upbeat, the lyrics are anything but. In this song, Young shows his anger at American society, especially the increasing violence and poverty throughout the nation. Young recorded two versions of this song: an acoustic arrangement and the well-known electric rendition.

Its political lyrics resonated with people looking for change in a corrupt world. This track ranked second on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Chart and 39th on RPM's Top Singles Chart.

“Thrasher” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1979

“Thrasher” is one of Neil Young's best acoustic songs, with lyrics reflecting his life experiences. This song highlights a difficult period with Crosby, Stills & Nash. It touches on the group’s dwindling relevance and Young’s departure towards a long-lasting solo career.

Young doesn’t hold back on his reflections, and the lyrics express his newfound creative freedom. It’s a great piece that’s relatable to people drifting apart from others.

“Through My Sails” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

“Through My Sails” is a hopeful Neil Young song about starting a new life. The lyrics center on leaving your old life behind and creating a blank slate, which could resonate with anyone wanting to move forward and accept change. It’s the type of song best played whenever you need to unwind after a harsh week.

“From Hank to Hendrix” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1992

This song is about a man asking the woman he loves if there's anything they can do to make their failing marriage last.

The song's lyrics and title indicate how the two have been together for several decades. Its slower tempo and steady guitar give it a pleasant sound, despite the context of fading love.

“Tonight’s the Night” by Neil Young

Song Year: 1975

The main inspiration behind Neil Young's “Tonight's the Night” stems from the death of his roadie, Bruce Berry, resulting from a heroin overdose. Young's vocals have a haunting sound, emphasized by the feelings of loss and the rough guitar accompaniment. 

Songs about unfortunate events can impact audiences as much as ones about positivity, especially for those who experienced loss.

Top Neil Young Songs, Final Thoughts

Neil Young's talent has resonated with music lovers throughout the decades, and his music continues to attract new fans, young and old. The best Neil Young songs have an iconic rock sound, with hints of folk and country, showcasing his musical flexibility.

We hope this list can help you find a few new favorite songs. Feel free to comment and tell us which ones you like the most.

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