Neil Young on leaving CSN&Y: "I wanted to take the love somewhere else where it would do better"

Neil Young follows his muse wherever it may take him, and that's meant walking away from two successful bands in the past. In an interview with Howard Stern around the release of new Crazy Horse album Barn, he's elaborated a little on why he parted ways with both Crosby, Nash, Stills & Young after doing the same with Buffalo Springfield.

"It’s just what I wanted to do – I wanted to focus on this thing of what the songs were about, and the look on people’s faces, the people who came to see us and how we connected with them," Young told Stern. "To me that was the Holy Grail, that was it. That was all that mattered to me. And once we started drifting away from that, I was gone. I didn’t think about it from the standpoint of anybody else. I just thought if I'm gonna be me, I'm gonna be me. This is who I am, I can’t do what I do if I don’t act like I believe."

And when Stern asked whether Young sees breaking up a band as akin to breaking up a marriage, Young replied:

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Neil Young

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“First of all, didn’t break up with music, I didn’t break up with love. Those are the two things you would break up with if you were dissolving a family or quitting a band. So I go back to the source. I didn't give up on the love, I didn't give up on the music. I just wanted it to be nurtured. I wanted to take care of it. If the love was suffering because the situation wasn’t right, I wanted to take the love somewhere else where it would do better.”

Neil Young

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Though Young has fallen out with some of the members of the band in recent years, he's not bitter about his lack of inclusion into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in 1997 either. “I don’t understand it either, but it’s OK,” Young told Stern. “Crosby, Stills and Nash; they're the core of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I was just kind of like a floating satellite. Their vocal sound made it happen. Those guys are all great songwriters, they’re great singers, they’re great players; they're really good.”

The songwriter has already been inducted with Buffalo Springfield and as a solo artist, but Young wonder when his other band will get the nod. “What I'd like to know is, where the hell is Crazy Horse? That’s rock ’n’ roll.”

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.