Neil Young’s Injury That Inspired His Biggest Hit ‘Heart Of Gold’

Neil Young has released countless legendary songs during his music career that spans over nearly sixty years, such as ‘The Needle and the Damage Done,’ ‘Like A Hurricane,’ ‘Harvest Moon,’ and many more. Though these tracks, along with several others, brought him great recognition and appreciation, one song is more commercially successful than the others.

That track is ‘Heart of Gold,‘ and it was Young’s first and only no. 1 single in The United States. Though the song has many interesting aspects, such as the musician’s applauded guitar work and touching lyrics, an unusual incident became its source of inspiration. Neil Young suffered a painful injury, which ultimately led to the creation of his biggest hit.

Neil Young Had A Back Injury

Neil Young released his fourth studio album entitled ‘Harvest‘ on February 1, 1972. The record was incredibly successful as it topped the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks. It also became the best-selling album of 1972 in the United States. Many years after its release, ‘Harvest’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.

Although Young released his highest-charting album, the musician suffered from a back injury that required surgery in that same year. It took him an entire year to finish the acoustic album since it was recorded between tours, hospital stays, surgery recovery, and the rush of having his first child.

Neil Young Released His Greatest Hit Thanks To The Injury

In addition to the album’s success, Neil Young released two hit singles named ‘Old Man,’ which peaked at no. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100, and ‘Heart of Gold,‘ which topped the chart. The latter is one of a series of delicate acoustic pieces written partly as a result of a back injury. Because Young could not stand for long periods due to his injury, the musician couldn’t play his electric guitar.

Young returned to his acoustic guitar to solve the problem, which allowed him to play while sitting down. As a result of his back injury, the musician decided to use different instruments, including acoustic guitar and harmonica, during the three instrumental portions, including the introduction to the song. His diverse approach to the track made it his only U.S. no. 1 single.

Long after its release, ‘Heart of Gold’ is still considered one of the greatest songs of all time, and Rolling Stone ranked it no. 297 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time in 2004. Over the years, the song didn’t lose its ranking but remained on the list in its 2010 and 2021 updates. On top of its success in America, it was named the third greatest song in Canada on the CBC Radio One series ’50 Tracks: The Canadian Version’ in 2005.

You can listen to ‘Heart of Gold’ below.