Neil Young: Words and Music

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Escape the summer heat with this colourful, six-part portrait of the legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young. The musical force behind classic songs like "Heart of Gold" and "Helpless," and some of the most exquisitely crafted albums in the history of rock, Young has left an indelible imprint on our pop cultural landscape and built a prolific career. Employing dynamic song and film clips, and the astute critical and scholarly analysis that have made him a Curious Minds favourite, Dr. Mike Daley returns to guide us through Young’s storied career—and celebrate the joyous music that has kept generations of fans “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Led by Dr. Mike Daley (Leonard Cohen: Words and Music; The Toronto Sound; The Beatles and their World), a music historian and professional musician who has taught at Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo and York Universities.

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The six lectures in this series will all be available to stream as of Thursday, July 30. Binge them all at once, or take it one week at a time—it’s up to you! Once they are online, you can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page. Once you start streaming the lecture, it will be available for 48 hours.

Join your fellow Curious Minds and Dr. Mike Daley for a live Q&A on Wednesday, August 19 at 11:00 a.m. To submit a question, email

Lecture #1: The Early Years
In this first lecture, we cover Neil Young's beginnings in Ontario and Manitoba. From his earliest work with high school band The Squires, Neil's creativity and determination is evident. Shortly after moving back to Toronto, Neil joins the Mynah Birds, a Yorkville-based band, and then heads to California.

Lecture #2: Buffalo Springfield and the Early Solo Years
With the formation of the short-lived but influential Buffalo Springfield, the recruitment of his longtime backing band Crazy Horse, and the creation of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Neil achieves wide acclaim. His solo album After The Goldrush becomes a hit and establishes him as a major talent.

Lecture #3: Harvest and "The Ditch"
Making a bold move into country-rock, Neil records the classic album Harvest in 1972 and "Heart Of Gold" becomes a massive hit single. In reaction, Neil heads for "the ditch" as he terms it, releasing three shambolic and uncommercial albums known by fans as "the ditch trilogy."

Lecture #4: Experimentation
After a series of wildly popular tours with Crazy Horse and CSNY, Neil concludes the 1970s with two popular albums, Rust Never Sleeps and Comes A Time. Not content to rest on his laurels, he begins a period of great experimentation, flitting between electronic pop and rhythm and blues—and, occasionally, bewildering his fans.

Lecture #5: The Godfather of Grunge
With his 1989 hit "Rockin' In The Free World," Neil has a comeback of sorts, and emerges as a senior figure of "grunge," a style of rock music reminiscent of his work with Crazy Horse. Reprising the sound of Harvest on his Harvest Moon album, Neil leaves an indelible mark on the music of the 90s.

Lecture #6: Recent Years
In the 21st century, Neil Young has remained a fiercely independent and prolific artist, releasing new albums that often display a conceptual or protest bent. Deeply engaged with the environmental and antiwar movements, and a great supporter of ambitious, sometimes eccentric side projects (eco friendly cars, model trains), Young remains a pop-cultural force. His legacy and his music endure.

Additional Information

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)