Why Is Neil Young Considered the “Godfather of Grunge?”

When you think of Neil Young, the words “folk legend” often come to mind – or maybe even “classic rock icon” at the very most. The word “grunge” is often reserved for bands like Nirvana or Pearl Jam. But, did you know that many people consider Young as the igniting fire of the sub-genre?

If you’ve ever wondered why people call Young the “Godfather of Grunge,” find the answer below.

Godfather of Grunge?
The nickname stems from Young and Crazy Horse’s 1979 album, Rust Never Sleeps. Young employed a distorted, wavering guitar style more so than ever before. The end result was something that closely resembled what would become known as grunge a couple of decades later.

On top of his unique sonic direction, Young has often stood up against authority. Though Young is more political than many grunge artists, you can trace the line between Young’s defiant energy and that of grunge stewards.

The earliest known mention of Young being the “Godfather of Grunge” comes from a 1991 article in Pulse!, which featured the headline “The Godfather of Grunge Rock.” The article compares Young’s musical style in the Rust Never Sleeps era and that of through and through grunge bands.

The message must have resonated with a number of people, given how ubiquitously Young is known as the “Godfather of Grunge” these days.

Young’s Progeny
It’s one thing to create a theoretical link between Young and grunge bands, but it’s another to hear those bands actually cite the folk legend as an inspiration.

Kurt Cobain famously quoted Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” in his suicide note: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” That track appears on Rust Never Sleeps, further cementing its hold in the grunge community.

[RELATED: The Story Behind the Tragic Death of Kurt Cobain]

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder helped induct Young into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In his speech, he thanks Young for his role in establishing the grunge genre.

“He’s taught us a lot as a band, about dignity and commitment, and playing in the moment,” Vedder said in his speech. “And when I hear the speeches, inducting Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa… I’m just really glad he’s still here.”

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