Meaning of Heart of Gold – Neil Young & Song Story

No sane music lover would dare to name Neil Young as a one-hit-songwriter. Over a career spanning more than half a century, the legendary Canadian musician has released dozens of albums, delighting fans with many great songs.

But he was never bothered by positions in the charts, so he did not actively promote singles. It’s no surprise that Neil has only topped the Billboard Hot 100 once. The first place of the famous hit parade was conquered by the composition Heart of Gold (“Golden Heart”).

By the way, at first Bob Dylan could not stand her, who, in general, really likes Young’s work. Why? More on this at the end of the article.

The history of the song Heart of Gold – Neil Young

Young composed the words and music for the piece in early 1971. At first, he performed Heart of Gold and A Man Need a Maid as a single composition, but then split it into two separate songs.

Shortly before that, he injured his back, because of which he could not stand for a long time playing the electric guitar. Acoustic guitar can be used to accompany yourself while sitting, so Neil performed Heart of Gold and other tracks for the Harvest album in this way.

He recorded the song on February 6, 1971 at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Neil came to town to take part in Johnny Cash’s TV show. There he met producer Ellion Mazer, who found Young a studio and suitable session musicians.

That episode of The Johnny Cash Show also starred Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Mazer invited them to perform as backing vocalists on the recording of Heart of Gold.

Linda later recalled the conditions under which she was forced to sing:

We were seated on a couch in the control room, but I had to get on my knees to be at the same level as James, because he is so tall. We sang all night and I played the highest notes I could. It was so hard, but no one paid attention. By the time we left the studio, it was already dawn.


The meaning of the song Heart of Gold

Neil Young didn’t explain what the lyrics were about. “Heart of gold” is a hackneyed expression used to describe kind and compassionate people. What or whom the author seeks to find is left for the listeners to decide.

Perhaps he turns to his beloved, saying that she motivates him to become better. Or we are talking about charity and an active social and political life, which is quite in the spirit of the Nile.

Critics’ opinions about Heart of Gold were divided. Some criticized Young for obvious clichés, while others found the song touching and, despite the simple lyrics, thoughtful.

Write reviews about Heart of Gold in the comments. Let’s try to figure out the main idea of ​​the song together.

Release and achievements

Neil Young managed to perform Heart of Gold live in front of an audience before recording the track. On January 19, 1971, he sang it in concert at Massey Hall, accompanying himself on the piano.

In January 72, the song was released as a single from the Harvest album. She topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Canada Top Singles, and also hit the charts in other countries.

Heart of Gold made Neil Young a star. The musician commented on his popularity as follows:

This song sent me on my way. I soon got tired of driving along the road, so I headed into the ditch. It’s not such a pleasant trip, but I saw more interesting people there.

Synopsis for the album Decade

However, he never denied the merits of Heart of Gold, and called the Harvest record his best record.

The song has received several prestigious awards:

  • Billboard included it in the list of the best tracks of 1972.
  • Rolling Stone ranked it #303 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • CBC Radio One ranked it as the third best Canadian song of all time.

But not everyone liked Heart of Gold. Bob Dylan admitted that she annoyed him:

The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was around 1972 when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. Then the big hit was the song Heart of Gold. When she appeared on the radio, I hated her. I’ve always liked Neil Young, but I felt uncomfortable every time I listened to Heart of Gold. She seemed to be in first place for quite some time, and I kept saying, “Damn, that’s me. If it sounds like it’s me, then I might as well sing it.”

Spin, 1985

Heart of Gold – Neal Young

Watch the music video from Neil Young’s performance in 1971. Listen to how the then young singer performed Heart of Gold.

Cover versions

In 1987, Willie Nelson’s Heart of Gold hit number 44 on the Billboard country charts.

Boney M recorded Heart of Gold for the Nightflight to Venus album.

Johnny Cash’s version of Heart of Gold was featured on the Enearthed album.

Interesting Facts

  • In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, the Heart of Gold is a spaceship.
  • The song is featured in the movie Ice Man. It also featured on the soundtrack of the drama Eat Pray Love.
  • Lady Gaga mentions Heart of Gold in You and I.

Neil Young Lyrics Heart of Gold

I want to live
I want to give
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.
It’s these expressions I never give
that keep me searching for a heart of gold
and I’m getting old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
and I’m getting old

I’ve been to Hollywood
I’ve been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold
I’ve been in my mind, it’s such a fine line,
that keeps me searching for a heart of gold
and I’m getting old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
and I’m getting old.

Keep me searching for a heart of gold
You keep me searching and I’m growing old
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold

  • Neil was only twenty-six when he wrote the song.
  • Redwood National Park in California.
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