‘Be My Girl’: The lost Neil Young love song we’ll never hear

Neil Young may have come to be known as the ‘Godfather of Grunge’, but he also had a penchant for love songs. His songwriting lent itself to romance through his intimate lyrics, folk-infused guitars and distinctive, soft vocals. Since beginning his music career in the 1960s, the singer-songwriter has penned a host of beautiful love songs which toe the line between gooey and rocking.

‘Harvest Moon’, one of Young’s most well-loved and widely covered songs, is just one example. Presumably a tribute to his wife at the time, Pegi Morton, the song pairs soft acoustic strums with layered vocals and dreamy tones to reflect the comfort of long-term love. Young sings, “Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again, because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon”.

Young was also unafraid to write about the destructive potential of love. ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ reflected on the innocent loneliness of being young, yet to experience love. In his lyrics, he suggests this might have been a more blissful time, lamenting, “Try to be sure right from the start, yes, only love can break your heart, what if your world should fall apart?”

Though Young has gifted the world with many songs about the pain and pleasure of love and romance, there is one song he wrote that went unrecorded. In the 1992 book Don’t Be Denied, the subject of the song revealed its existence.

Apparently, one of Young’s first original tracks, ‘Be My Girl’, was written in the early 1960s with The Squires, a band Young formed in Winnipeg. The band began in 1963 and had disbanded by 1966, but it formed an early project for Young to practice his songwriting and performance.

The Squires performed the song at a community club, a surprise for Young’s then-girlfriend Marilyne Nentwig. The reported lyrics for the track are fairly short and straightforward: “Be my girl, be my girl, come on say you will, when I saw you standing there, with the wind blowing in your hair, then I knew that you’d have to be my girl.”

The song continues this simplistic, devoted theme throughout, “Don’t you know the way I’m feeling? Don’t you know that my heart’s reeling for you, you, you, you?” The song concluded with its title phrase once more, “Without you, life is not worth living, all my loving, I’ll be giving to you, you, you, be my girl.”

Lyrically, there seem to be clear influences from the Beatles in lines like “When I saw you standing there” and “All my loving”. With its uncomplicated, intimate lyrics, it would fit perfectly with Young’s folk-rock sound. Unfortunately, the song was never recorded or released, so we can only imagine what it would have sounded like.

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