Neil Young - The Needle and the Damage Done

Here’s a video of another one of my favorite musicians, Neil Young, performing one of my favorite songs, The Needle and the Damage Done.

This particular video is from the Johnny Cash Show, where Cash often invited singers from all genres of music to perform. The show was rather short lived, only 58 shows between 1969 and 1971 on ABC, but had a significant impact. It featured artist ranging from Neil Young and Eric Clapton to Louis Armstrong to The Staler Brothers.

The song itself is about what Young saw as a problem among musicians at the time, heroin addiction. In particular, he wrote it about Danny Whitten, the guitarist in his band Crazy Horse. Whitten’s addiction eventually led to his death by overdose after Young had to dismiss him from the band.

If you’re a guitarist, the song itself isn’t that hard to play on a solo acoustic guitar if you work at it a bit. The progression is simple and the real trick to it is in learning how to move your fingers around the basic chord shapes like D, G and E to pick up the notes of the song.

As for Neil Young himself, I’ve enjoyed his music for a while but, as is the case with many musicians, I don’t care for his take on politics, finding them overly naive on international matters and too socialist on domestic concerns in most cases.


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Comment by Emma
2008-05-03 18:11:40

Hey Frank, thanks for that little blast from the past. You got me stuck in You Tube watching Neil Young, and then Jonny Cash and Neil Diamond. I’ll do anything to avoid work. I atually agree with you on the politics by the way.

Comment by jfc
2008-05-03 20:17:42

Hi Emma,

Sorry to keep you away from work. I spent about an hour myself hopping from music video to music video myself today.

Comment by Buy Gothic Dresses
2008-07-04 06:38:36

The Needle and the Damage Done has always been one of my favorite Neil Young songs too. Interesting to read that he wrote it partly for Danny Whitten; I always heard it was aimed specifically at David Crosby, whose drug use prevented Neil Young from playing with Crosby, Stills and Nash for some years.

Have to say that I disagree about Neil’s politics — I tend to agree with him on many of those issues. But regardless of our differences about his politics, we can certainly agree that he is a musician almost without peer.

2008-07-08 09:38:33

I’m also a big Neil Young fan. The Needle and the Damage Done is a great song, and this is a great performance of it.

The cool thing about Neil is that he is still out there doing is it night after night. I was just sent the link to a recording of his encore a week or two ago, somewhere in South America. He did an absolutely blistering version of a song by the Beatles, A Day in the Life, which brought down the house.

Comment by Cheap GPS Systems
2008-08-12 18:13:09

Frank, quit doing this to us. You keep getting us stuck over at YouTube watching great musicians from the past. I never saw that Johnny Cash Show but it sounds great. The Needle and the Damage Done is such a sad song about a tragic situation. Neil’s voice and style really do it justice.

2008-08-12 18:50:04

Well, I am old enough to remember that Johnny Cash Show but I don’t recall that particular episode. I am a great fan of Neil Young! And CS&N also.

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