10. “Down by the River”
This is a beautiful slow burn by Young and his crew. “Down by the River” hits on all cylinders as it nears the chorus. The song is extremely intricate and meticulously written. This is Neil in his heyday and at his musical peak.
9. “Rockin’ in the Free World”
This song is about as hard rock as Neil Young gets. “Rockin’ in the Free World” was everywhere in the late-1980’s and really turned-on Young to a new generation. The song commented on the ever-changing landscape of world culture and politics.
8. “Southern Man”
“Southern Man” was the Neil Young song that allegedly spurred Lynyrd Skynyrd to write “Sweet Home Alabama.” Whether or not that is true, is up for debate. What is not, is the scathing critique of the South issued by Neil Young in this song. This is a simple song, but with searing lyrics.
7. “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)”
These were the infamous lyrics Kurt Cobain referenced prior to tragically taking his life. The song is about being true to yourself and not overstaying your welcome in the church of rock and roll. The lyrics are phenomenal and the sound is bittersweet.
6. “The Needle and the Damage Done”
Young’s ballad to those who lost their battle with drugs. The song is extremely simple, but that along with the startling lyrics, make it all the more powerful. This one still comes up and is covered frequently, especially in today’s world.
5. “Old Man”
Few songs sum up transition into adulthood quite like this excellent song. Young’s voice and lyrics embody being young in age, but old in spirit. This level of jadedness is both depressing, but also somewhat hopeful. It’s also featured in the amazing film “Wonder Boys.”
4. “After the Gold Rush”
An extremely underrated Neil Young track, the song is about changing times and the corresponding impact on one’s life. This one still holds up beautifully and is a favorite amongst hardcore Neil Young fans.
3. “It’s A Dream”
Few songs in the past couple of decades have matched the beauty of Neil Young’s “It’s A Dream.” The song is pastoral and strikingly visceral. At its heart though, the song is about coming to grips with life and appreciating the gifts that are given.
Easily, Neil Young’s most underrated song, “Helpless” is a deceptively complex requiem. Furthermore, the song represents changing times and the way we yearn for the bygone days. The harmonies on this one are out of sight.
1. “Heart of Gold”
Easily Neil Young’s most famous song, which is also his best, “Heart of Gold” is an ode to a by-gone era with a touch of timeless heartache. The song is lyrically and rhythmically perfect and explicitly displays Young’s musical genius. Few songs in modern music are better.