The “beautiful” song Neil Young described as his childhood favourite

Timing is imperative when it comes to music. At certain stages in one’s life, we become more receptive to allowing ourselves to be shaped by outside influences. With that, songs can have a transformative effect on individuals, as Neil Young discovered during a trip away with a friend as a 12-year-old.

During Young’s childhood, his family moved throughout Canada and even briefly moved below the border to Florida. Although the musician only spent a year of his early youth in Winnipeg, it proved to be a fruitful time, and he’d later move back there with his mother from Toronto following his parents’ divorce.

Young was 12 during his first spell in Winnipeg, and at this formative point in his life, he wanted to absorb all forms of culture. The growth of folk music had spread to Canada, and Young was enamoured by the song ‘Four Strong Winds’ by Ian & Sylvia, who were also from his native country.

The duo were signed to manager Albert Grossman, who also looked after artists including Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. While the pair were originally from Toronto, the same place where Young was born, they boldly moved to New York to chase their dream and immerse themselves in the world’s most exciting music scene.

During a conversation with comedian Conan O’Brien, the pair discussed ‘Four Strong Winds’ by Ian & Sylvia, and Young said of the track: ” I loved it so much that I would put nickels and dimes in the jukebox to play it over and over again until I didn’t have any change. I would just stand there in front of it and listen to it.”

He continued: “It was a beautiful song. For some reason, it really got to me, and I could feel the magic of the music.”

Young then reminisced about this period of his life and provided more insight into how ‘Four Strong Winds’ elevated his existence. While he couldn’t remember where he’d first heard the track, the singer-songwriter vividly recalls when he fell in love with ‘Four Strong Winds’.

The Canadian told the host: “I was in Winnipeg, I’d heard the song before, but I was in Falcon Lake, a place near Winnipeg. It’s a lake, and you can pitch tents around it, so we had our tents, my friend Jack and I. We were out there, and I found this thing on the jukebox in the restaurant.”

The pair then listened to the song, but Young noticed it was in stereo, which was a different version to the one engrained in his mind from the jukebox at Falcon Lake. He admitted after the song ended: “At first, it disturbed me a little because it was stereo, and it wasn’t where I’d gone in my head when I was talking about it because I have a memory of it that’s so strong, but the music is there.’”

Young later recorded his own version of the life-affirming song for his 1978 album Comes a Time. Additionally, he has also sporadically covered ‘Four Strong Winds’ during his concerts, playing it 60 times in total.

Watch footage of him performing the track below.

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