After Neil Young left the Californian folk-rock band Buffalo Springfield in 1968, he slowly established himself as one of the most influential and idiosyncratic singer/songwriters of his generation. Young's body of work ranks second only to Bob Dylan in terms of depth, and he was able to sustain his critical reputation, as well as record sales, for a longer period of time than Dylan, partially because of his willfully perverse work ethic.
From the beginning of his solo career in the late '60s until the late '90s, he never stopped writing, recording, and performing; his official catalog only represented a portion of his work, since he kept countless tapes of unreleased songs in his vaults. Just as importantly, Young continually explored new musical territory, from rockabilly and the blues to electronic music. But these stylistic exercises only gained depth when compared to his two primary styles: gentle folk and country-rock, and crushingly loud electric guitar rock, which he frequently recorded with the Californian garage band Crazy Horse.
Throughout his career, Young alternated between these two extremes, and both proved equally influential; there were just as many singer/songwriters as there were grunge and country-rock bands claiming to be influenced by Neil Young. Despite his enormous catalog and influence, Young continued to move forward, writing new songs and exploring new music. That restless spirit ensured that he was one of the few rock veterans as vital in his old age as he was in his youth.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Neil Young moved to Winnipeg with his mother following her divorce from his sports-journalist father. Young began playing music in high school. Not only did he play in garage rock outfits like the Esquires, but he also played in local folk clubs and coffeehouses, where he eventually met Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills. During the mid-'60s, he returned to Toronto, where he played as a solo folk act. By 1966, he joined the Mynah Birds, which also featured bassist Bruce Palmer and Rick James. The group recorded an album's worth of material for Motown, none of which was released at the time.
Frustrated by his lack of success, Young moved to Los Angeles in his Pontiac hearse, taking Palmer along as support. Shortly after they arrived in L.A., they happened to meet Stills, and they formed Buffalo Springfield, who quickly became one of the leaders of the Californian folk-rock scene. Despite the success of Buffalo Springfield, the group was plagued with tension, and Young quit the band several times before finally leaving to become a solo artist in May of 1968. Hiring Elliot Roberts as his manager, Young signed with Reprise Records and released his eponymous debut album in early 1969.