Neil Young – Cinnamon Girl

Love the nasty sound Neil has on his guitar. The song peaked at #55 in the Billboard 100 and #25 in Canada in 1970. Neil recruited guitarist Danny Whitten, bassist Billy Talbot & drummer Ralph Molina from a local psychedelic group called The Rockets, and renamed them Crazy Horse. The song was on the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The album peaked at #34 in the Billboard 200 album chart and #32 in Canada.

In the liner notes of his Decade compilation, Neil said “Wrote this for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me thru Phil Ochs eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife.”

From Songfacts
Phil Ochs was a folk/protest singer active in the ’60s who had issues with his mental stability (although his paranoia about the FBI turned out not to be far off). Young’s wife at the time was Susan Acevedo; they were married for just one year at this point.

Though Young would not identify his muse, the bit about finger cymbals is a reference to ’60s folk singer Jean Ray, who performed with then-husband Jim Glover under the name Jim and Jean. Phil Ochs, a close friend of a couple, penned the title song to their second album, Changes.

Brian Ray, Paul McCartney’s guitarist and Jean’s younger brother, claims the song is indeed about his sister. Jean, herself, said she inspired another Neil Young song from the Everybody Knows This is Nowhere album: “Cowgirl in the Sand.”

In the book Shakey, Young copped to having a crush on Ray. When asked if she is the Cinnamon Girl, Young said, “Only part of the song. There’s images in there that have to do with Jean and there’s images that have to do with other people.”

Young recorded this with his band Crazy Horse. It was originally released on the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album in 1969. Young put out an alternate version as a single in 1970, which did well partly because he was getting exposure as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

In Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History, Neil Young talked about poaching the band The Rockets for the formation of Crazy Horse, who he first recorded with on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere: “The truth is, I probably did steal them away from the other band, which was a good band. But only because what we did, we went somewhere.” He later goes on to say, “That’s the hardest part, is the guilt of the trail of destruction that I’ve left behind me.”

In the same work, it is also mentioned that “With songs such as ‘Cinnamon Girl,’ ‘Down By The River,’ and ‘Cowgirl in the Sand,’ Crazy Horse clearly gave Neil Young the kind of sympathetic and almost telepathic backing he needed.” Neil Young went on to declare Crazy Horse “the American Rolling Stones.”

The band Type O Negative did a remake on their 1996 album October Rust. The song was also covered by Smashing Pumpkins on the Reel Sessions bootleg.

That’s Danny Whitten singing high harmony on this this song with Young. Whitten was a singer/guitarist in Young’s backing band Crazy Horse, which released its own album in 1970 featuring a few Whitten compositions, including “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” later a #1 UK hit for Rod Stewart. Whitten spent his last years battling a heroin addiction, and in 1972 died after overdosing on alcohol and Valium.

The liner notes to Decade reveal that “Down by the River,” “Cinnamon Girl,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” all in a single afternoon – while sick with a 103 degree temperature. Also, they were recorded after being together with the band Crazy Horse for only two weeks.”

Cinnamon Girl

I want to live with a Cinnamon Girl
I could be happy the rest of my life 
with a Cinnamon Girl

A dreamer of pictures, I run in the night
you see us together chasin’ the moonlight
my Cinnamon Girl

Ten silver saxes, a bass with a bow
the drummer relaxes and waits between shows
for his Cinnamon Girl

A dreamer of pictures, I run in the night
you see us together chasin’ the moonlight
my Cinnamon Girl

Pa, send me money now
I’m gonna make it somehow
I need another chance
You see, your baby loves to dance
yeah, yeah, yeah

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

13 thoughts on “Neil Young – Cinnamon Girl”

  1. Agreed the guitar is really throbbing here. One of my favorite Uncle Neil songs that got airplay. Dutch Henry, the local group I posted about recently, had perfected their cover of this song (along with CSNY’s “Ohio”).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ❤ Think about how many songs are recognizable through their openings. There is no way in the world you could mistake either of these for anything else….


  2. The only Neil Young song I ever liked was Heart of Gold.

    Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty…all sound the same to me… They sing like what Felix sounds like on The Odd Couple clearing his sinuses. 🤧😳

    Liked by 1 person

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