Long May He Run: Coffee Table Book Fetes Neil Young on His 70th

Neil Young: Heart of Gold
By Harvey Kubernik
Backbeat Books, 224 pp. $34.99

He’s just turned 70, but does rock and roll have any other artist that is still more continually evolving, both pleasing and provoking his audience, than Neil Young?

Since 2012, he’s put out five studio albums ranging from a collection of covers of old American songs, one recorded in a 1940s singing booth, one with an orchestra, and a concept record about modern food production.

That’s not even counting the time spent on compilations, film projects, social activism, guest appearances, and snuggling with Daryl Hannah.

But do we a really need another Neil Young book, given that there’s already a “definitive” bio (Jimmy McDonough’s 2002 Shakey) and — more recently — two hefty volumes penned by Young himself (Waging Heavy Peace and Special Deluxe)?

The answer is yes if you include this effort. Heart of Gold is a wonderful, gorgeous-to-look-at, and surprisingly detailed and accurate illustrated biography by longtime music scribe Kubernik.

For while it includes both his music-journo observations and quotes for Young culled from previously-sourced material, this book’s secret weapon is the oral history format featuring comments and reminisces from the dozens of bandmates, writers, producers, record execs, and friends who have worked with Young in his 50-plus-year career.

It also just plain looks great, from the coffee table book style to the quality paper to the hundreds of images – photos (many new to me), records covers, ads and ticket stubs, and ephemera - from Young’s career.

Each album gets a lean and mean section on its creation, and a detailed timeline and discography will let you know almost everything except what brand of tequila Neil and Crazy Horse guzzled during the “Tonight’s the Night” marathon session. All in all, a true must-have for all Neil Young fans out there — and whichever Neil they like most.
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero