The final Neil Young song featuring Danny Whitten

Danny Whitten

Although Neil Young collaborated with many famous people throughout his career, the late Danny Whitten had the greatest influence on him.

While Whitten’s time in the spotlight was brief due to his death from heroin addiction in 1972. His collaboration with Neil Young was monumental. Young met Whitten, Ralph Molina, and Billy Talbot while performing in the Los Angeles rock band The Rockets in 1967. At that time he was still a member of Buffalo Springfield.

Young began jamming with the trio after releasing his debut solo album in 1968. After expressing an interest in recording together, the three quickly became Crazy Horse, Young’s most lauded and influential backing band.

This collaboration paid off, as Young’s second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, continues to be a classic to this day. Young’s journey to becoming the ‘Godfather of Grunge’ began with this record. Young and Whitten’s gritty, dovetailing guitars in songs like ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Down by the River’ created a unique and powerful sound that captivated listeners then and remains just as potent today.

Whitten’s life became overwrought after the success of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, due to his increasingly severe heroin addiction, which, along with his crippling arthritis, would lead to his talent taking a back seat. Unfortunately, this path would lead to his death in 1972.

Years later, Young recalled, “That Night the Coroner called me and told me he’d died”. That completely blew my mind. My mind was blown. Danny was my favourite. I felt responsible for it. And then I had to go on this massive tour of massive arenas. I was nervous and… insecure.”

As widely recognized, Young partially enlisted Whitten’s contribution for his 1970 album, After the Gold Rush, leading to the firing of Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse midway through the recording sessions. This decision carried a significant impact from Whitten’s addiction. He then posthumously received a credit on Tonight’s the Night in 1975.

Neil Young’s final song featuring Danny Whitten is ‘When You Dance I Can Really Love’ from After the Gold Rush, according to him. “He wasn’t looking too good at that point,” the singer-songwriter recalled.

As we know, Whitten’s influence on Neil Young continued even after his death. The profoundly melancholy ‘The Needle and The Damage Done’ would become a highlight of 1972’s Harvest. And, the guitarist would later be credited as the main inspiration behind 1975’s Tonight’s the Night.

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