An Ode to A Heart of Gold ~ Rock Icon & Crusader: Neil Young



Neil Young making “Le Noise”, Los Angeles, 2010. [Photo: Adam CK Vollick]


Today [November 12, 2011] is rock icon Neil Young‘s 66th birthday.  And if you’re reading this, chances are, you know who he is in regard to rock and roll, but what you may not be so aware of is his tireless charitable work for the differently abled.  Let’s explore Neil Young, The Minstrel With The Heart of Gold…

A Canadian “Spirit Man” Makes Music in America

Neil Young has had what can only be termed a prolific solo & group music career: spanning 45 years; 50 odd albums [solo, group & film soundtracks]; 8 Juno Awards;  1 Grammy for music [2011 Rock song of the year “Angry World” from the Dan Lanois produced “Le Noise”. Sidebar: HOW does Neil Young only have ONE Grammy?!]; TWO inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [1 as solo artist, 1 for his group work] and in 2003 Rolling Stone cited him as Number 83 in its list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

His global, multi-decade success can be attributed to the fact that Neil Young is a deep thinker, a poet, a wanderer and a troubadour of the highest order.

His music has always had meaning – he has written deeply personal songs about his feelings towards the plight of the environment and the small farmer, drug addiction, war and politics – particularly those situations in relation to the United States, where he has resided since the early ’70′s, though he maintains his Canadian citizenship.

His courageous writing has garnered him accolades for being honest, knowledgeable and profound, but has also famously earned him disdain [the band Lynrd Skynrd wrote the song “Sweet Home Alabama”with the lyric “I hope Neil Young will remember; a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow”, as a response to Young’s “Southern Man” & “Alabama” that called out the Southern U.S for its record of slavery and rascism].

Regardless of the feedback, Neil Young has never wavered from his commitment to bearing his soul and voicing his views through his craft.

As his collaborator and compadre, cinematographer/photographer Adam Vollick told us: “Neil has always followed his instincts, everything he does is closely tied to his conscience, and awareness to the world around him – he reaffirmed in me that things flow through us, not to us.”

[Photo: Adam Vollick, Mark Howard, Neil Young & Dan Lanois in Silverlake during the making of “Le Noise”]

Super-producer Daniel Lanois, talks about the mystical process of making the Grammy & Juno-winning album “Le Noise” with “spirit man” Neil Young:

Using His Voice: A Real Sense of Purpose

While Neil Young communicates to the world through music, and has used his voice to benefit numerous causes [among them, he co-founded FarmAid in 1985 with Willie Nelson and John Mellenkamp] he is personally cognizant that not everyone can communicate verbally.  Young has two children with cerebral palsy, his sons Zeke and Ben, who are both verbally and physically challenged.

In 1985, Neil’s wife, Pegi Young and Jim Forderer, in conjunction with Dr. Marilyn Buzolich, a speech and language pathologist, proposed a school dedicated to providing an environment where children with complex communication needs could learn, grow and thrive while developing the specific skills and abilities to realize a high quality of life.

They decided to found a facility dedicated to educating children with severe speech and physical impairments: The Bridge School.  Of course, the main roadblock to realizing their vision was funding.

Pegi and Neil were committed to finding the funds and on October 13, 1986, Neil Young held the first annual The Bridge School Concert – a star studded fundraising event in which 100% of the proceeds benefitted  The Bridge School.  Through the fundraising success of the concert the dream came to fruition.

The Bridge School focuses on enabling disabled children to succeed through a curriculum that personalizes each student’s instruction:

  • Supports and builds upon current communication skills
  • Maximizes academic and social participation
  • Ensures desired educational outcomes
  • Contributes to a positive quality of life


Over the course of its history,The Bridge School Concert has attracted the biggest names in the music industry including: The Who, David Bowie, Metallica, Sheryl Crow, Brian Wilson, Foo Fighters, Carlos Santana, Tony Bennett, Emmylou Harris & Daniel Lanois, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, Josh Groban and many, many more. Of course, Neil Young performs each and every year at the event, in addition to overseeing the organization of it.  He has been a tireless crusader and voice for those whose voices are not always heard.


This past October, 2011, the wildly successful and important Bridge School Concert celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honour of the event, an anniversary 3-DVD set and 2-CD compilation was released for sale, comprised of some of the greatest performances in the concert’s history.
You can purchase the must-have compilation through iTunes here.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Young. Thank you for your commitment to bravery, honesty and for having a big, throbbing Heart of Gold. Long May You Run.