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Friday, April 23, 2021

Is This The Story of "Cinnamon Girl"? The Story Behind Neil Young's Iconic Song Revisited

Rare Neil Young "Cinnamon Girl" 45 RPM Picture Sleeve
Recorded Live at The Fillmore East, New York City, March 7, 1970

"I wanna live with a cinnamon girl
I could be happy the rest of my life
With a cinnamon girl"


Here is a look back at one of the most heavily trafficked TW posts in our history and the ensuing controversy. 
TW Traffic History:
(click to enlarge statistics)
Quickly, back in  2010 -- while we were still on Facebook -- we were contacted by someone claiming to be the song's inspirational muse. The actual "Cinnamon Girl" herself.

While we were highly skeptical at the time, we decided to go ahead and publish her story @ So Who Was The "Cinnamon Girl"? The Story Behind The Song by Neil Young. 
The original post contained a disclaimer at both the top and bottom that the tale -- while highly intriguing and very entertaining -- was suspect and to proceed cautiously using disCERNment.
Oddly, even after a thorough debunking and the identification of the actual true  "Cinnamon Girl"? the posting continues to gain momentum over 10 years on.

So we begin yet again ...

So who was Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl"?

And why did he want to live the rest of his life with a "Cinnamon Girl" anyways? (Then again, who wouldn't?)

Who was she? Or did she even really exist?

If we look at the Decade box album, Neil's hand written note about the song "Cinnamon Girl" says:
"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."

The mystery of "Cinnamon Girl" only deepens.

Which city? What's peeling pavement? Who's Phil Ochs? Finger cymbals?

Phil Ochs: 1940 - 1976
(Phil Ochs and Neil Young have a somewhat tangential, but critical relationship.)

And why was it hard to explain to his wife, Susan?

First, let us go back to comments on the original 2011 TW posting So Who Was The "Cinnamon Girl"? The Story Behind The Song by Neil Young.
Immediately, rusties found innumerable flaws in the "The Riverboat Cinnamon Girl" story that just didn't add up.  Rustie extraordinaire and author of "Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years" Sharry Wilson immediately commented:

Interesting story, but I'm having trouble with the dates. Neil was doing his thing in Yorkville in the late fall/winter of 1965. By the early spring of 1966 he was playing in the Mynah Birds. He left Toronto in March 1966 to go to California. The date for his Riverboat gigs is also incorrect. He played them in Feb. 1969.

I double-checked my dates about Neil at the Riverboat and they were correct. He played the Riverboat in a string of dates starting in early Feb. 1969. (See Sugar Mountain setlist link below):

He came to Toronto in late June/early July 1965 after Mort (his hearse) broke down near Blind River. He was in Toronto through the rest of the summer, the fall and winter and then until the spring of 1966 when he departed for L.A. in his second hearse, Mort II.

Subsequent investigations by Sharry and other rusties determined that this was a big LARP.

But why? 

Why would anyone go to such trouble and lengths to put forth such a tale which we suspected would ultimately be debunked?

(While we have come up with various theories over the years as the page views racked up ever higher, those theories are for another day.)

So back to the actual, true "Cinnamon Girl" of Neil Young's dreams.

The main clue is right there in the Decade box album liner notes: "Phil Ochs eyes playing finger cymbals."

In the book "Shakey" by Jimmy McDonough, Neil Young is asked on page 337:

- Who inspired all the dancing-women songs?

"I don't know ... I remember this one girl, Jean "Monte" Ray - she was the singing partner of Jim, Jim, and Jean, folk duo. 

Had a record out called, "People's World," and she did a lot of dancing with finger cymbals. She was really great. Might've been her. Good chance. I kinda had a crush on her for awhile. Moved nice. 

She was real musical, soulful."


Jim And Jean "Changes"  - 1966

As Mother Nature on the Run commented: "FWIW - Jean Ray "Cinnamon Girl" was the bridesmaid in Ochs-Skinner wedding."

MNOTR continues

Jean Ray is quoted in liner notes that "Cowgirl In the Sand" came from a visit Neil made to her and her family living on the beach:

"Of the songs Ray penned, she reveals that "Topanga Road" was "about the Buffalo Springfield getting busted in Topanga Canyon, a totally bogus bust. Neil Young's song 'Cowgirl in the Sand' came from a visit he made to me and my family living on the beach. Neil watched me finishing up the tune, written on cheap paper with purple ink. I think he was so touched by my caring about their suffering through that awful ordeal, that his song came from mine. In it there's his lyric 'purple words on a [gray] background,' etc."

 - Liner notes from Jim and Jean's Changes/People World CD reissue by Richie Unterberger (2005) [1]


 Jean Ray and Jim Glover

Still skeptical?

Here is Brian Ray -- Jean's brother -- telling the "Cinnamon Girl" story and performing at his record release party for This Way Up at The Roxy on October 8, 2010.

Still skeptical?
From Paul McCartney in New Jersey: Meet Brian Ray, the man who plays bass |
The cover of Neil Young’s  “Cinnamon Girl,” with a coda of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul,” is personal for Ray.

“One of the main reasons, besides the fact it’s a seminal guitar-riff song, that it’s meaningful for me is because Neil and my late sister, Jean Ray, were very close in the ‘60s,” Ray said. “As a result, I got to meet and hang out with him as an 11-year old.”

More on So Who Was The "Cinnamon Girl"? The Story Behind The Song by Neil Young ... and be sure to check out those wacky comments from back in the day right on up to today ... 

... and all for a big LARP they said ...

Labels: , , ,


At 4/24/2021 03:34:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm pretty sure I don't want to know the real story lol...

and Brian Ray - although I have seen him with Sir Paul didn't know who he is - must be a great musician to play with Paul

At 4/25/2021 01:24:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

know what you mean there Jonathan. absolutely

Nor did we either ever really want to explore the CG subject too deeply. But "The Riverboat Cinnamon Girl" back in 2011 sort of forced our hand.

As you may have seen in the comments, over the years the question has come as to why leave the post up? Why not just take it down and be done with it?

Well, like a lot of things we struggle w/ here at TW with our vast team of interns (lol), it's not so simple. As the infowars drone on & on with a sea of disinfo, the original posting presents an opportunity to allow folks to exercise their disCERNment and sharpen their skills.

fortunately, as the Big Shift rolls along, many have learned their innate powers.

similarly, we never really did go back to the next backstory either involving Jean Ray. Frankly, we had our doubts on that one as well.

So just like 2011, our hand got forced again by the Jean Ray/CG story making the rounds again here 10 years later.

we also have a hunch that this may not be the real CG story either.

mainly b/c the power of songs like CG or Powderfinger lies within their inherent mystery and mystique.

sometimes you just have to get lost in neil's music -- the sound of freedom ...

At 4/26/2021 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

This could be one of those stories so lost and buried in myth, re-telling, wishful thinking, sentimentality, and just plain not remembering correctly that we will never know. It is interesting but it makes no difference to me as I listen to the songs. I am sure as the years go by, more stories like these will emerge. What could be more intriguing (to some) than to be somehow a part, even an insignificant part, of The Springfield, Cowgirl, Cinnamon Girl, and I will take my Cinnamon Girl stories with many grains of salt.

At 4/26/2021 11:51:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Abner - yes, agree. exactly.

it has been long said that in depth criticism and analysis can destroy the magic.

to which we plead guilty. not that our mission in life is to destroy ny's magical music. initially TW was conceived as a more repository for posterity of ny's comings and goings.

most just want to get lost in the music and go into the zone.

as we struggled w/ this, ny's lyrics became less opaque and more literal. many find that troubling. so the more recent music requires little analysis to figure out.

we've been a miner for meanings all or life. call it a flaw or a gift, but it what make TW tick.

all of which to say it keeps us searching ...

and stay tuned in the coming months as TW gets ready to launch something new and different that we hope folks find useful.

thanks for being here.

At 4/26/2021 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I think it is really interesting, the stories. Thanks for posting.

At 4/26/2021 10:31:00 PM, Blogger tomatron said...

It’s definitely worth pondering, given the song’s mystique and place in Neil’s legacy. I found this story more convincing than the other one, by far.

At 4/26/2021 10:31:00 PM, Blogger tomatron said...

It’s definitely worth pondering, given the song’s mystique and place in Neil’s legacy. I found this story more convincing than the other one, by far.

At 4/26/2021 10:31:00 PM, Blogger tomatron said...

It’s definitely worth pondering, given the song’s mystique and place in Neil’s legacy. I found this story more convincing than the other one, by far.

At 4/27/2021 01:14:00 PM, Blogger tomatron said...

Cringing right now at my old man phone skills, haha

At 4/28/2021 10:04:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Been living with the Cinnamon Girl for 30 years here.
With a little red-headed knockoff about to turn 26.

When she asked me if I had any Southern Man on our first
date I knew something good was happening.

I can be happy the rest of my life.......



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