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Monday, December 18, 2023

The Greatest Neil Young Song Neil Young Never Wrote

America - The Band 
 (Click photo to enlarge)


It's considered to be the greatest Neil Young song Neil Young never wrote.

The song "A Horse With No Name" by the band America ended up knocking Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold" out of the #1 spot on Billboard charts in 1972.

A rather fascinating article on the whole phenomenon surrounding Neil Young, the band America and the confusion which still continues to this day.

From "The story of America, the 70s soft rockers behind the greatest Neil Young song Neil Young never wrote" | Louder Sound by

The song in question was a winsome acoustic travelogue by band member Dewey Bunnell, now titled A Horse With No Name

By January 1972 it was at No.3 in the UK singles chart, while their self-titled debut album was on its way to the upper reaches of the LP listings. Within two months, both single and album were sitting atop the US charts. America were the newest sensations on the block.

The breezy melody and sun-caked harmonies of A Horse With No Name typified the group’s soft-rock sound. A nostalgic paean to a real or imagined past, it was infused with the same turn-of-the-70s ecological spirit as Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush. Bunnell’s voice was eerily similar to Young’s, while America’s dreamy otherness owed much to Young’s sometimes-compadres Crosby, Stills & Nash.

So how exactly did the band go about fielding accusations that A Horse With No Name was little more than a Neil Young/CS&N rip-off?

“I really felt like nothing was contrived,” answers Bunnell. “We weren’t trying to be imitators. We were truly inspired by that music, just as we had been before by The Beatles and The Beach Boys. We were reflections of our generation and the whole hippie thing. And Neil was really a big spokesperson for that.

“I didn’t expect some of the backlash after its success. Had the song just died on the vine people would have been more inclined to treat it differently. But then you get the Neil fans, who were rabidly protective. And, of course, there’s the whole thing about the timing, with us knocking Heart Of Gold off the top of the charts.

“It was ironic that, after all this, we moved back to the US and were managed by David Geffen and Elliot Roberts, whose crown jewels were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Even to this day, there are people who think A Horse With No Name is a Neil Young song.”

It didn’t help that promoters used the association glibly too. An advertisement in Boston for America’s first US tour of 1972 stated, somewhat maddeningly: ‘America, Horse With No Name – They’ll make your little Heart Of Gold rush.’

The band became even keener to prove they were no one-trick pony.

Full article  @ "The story of America, the 70s soft rockers behind the greatest Neil Young song Neil Young never wrote" | Louder Sound by

Neil Young's timeless classic song "Heart of Gold".

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At 12/19/2023 08:49:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Hilarious that Neil’s Dad called him up to congratulate him on his new popular song, “A Horse With No Name” & Neil didn’t bother to correct him on its authorship.

And yes, we Neil Young fans are a bit rabidly protective of his Art!

Happy Holidays. Let Love Reign. Peace be upon you, & for all of our many friends in Israel & Gaza.

Your brother Alan in Seattle

At 12/20/2023 08:10:00 AM, Blogger ViP said...

I wish this were Reddit (first and last time I say it!), so we could have a long thread on this very question : what is the greatest Neil Young song Neil never wrote ?

I honestly have no idea. Of course the easy way would be to look among the CSN catalogue, but somehow I feel it would not yeld the perfect answer. Maybe something by Joni, or an obscure track by Springsteen? Or should we look at the younger folk/americana brigade, or even the War On Drugs (via Trans)? Or maybe I'm mistaken and "AHWNN" or another song by America (I'm not familiar enough) actually is the answer...


At 12/20/2023 08:34:00 AM, Blogger ViP said... trying to keep up with the times, I just asked Chat-GPT, which came up with Robbie Robertson's "The Weight", and "Sweet Virginia" by the Rolling Stones. I should have thought of The Band ; not so sure about the Stones.

At 12/20/2023 10:31:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Alan - thanks & Happy Holidays to you & yours as well.

@ VIP - yep, that would be quite a thread. But no reason we can't have a massive thread here on "The Greatest Neil Young Song Neil Young Never Wrote".

A Horse w/ No Name seems fitting by a band named America for a Canadian guy.

Not sure it's fair to suggest Dylan tunes. Rainy Day Women maybe?!

At 12/20/2023 12:54:00 PM, Blogger Old Black said...

I absolutely can't stand "A horse with no name" and have often thought that anyone who thinks it's by Neil evidently has no ears! Contentious I know, but we're all different! Maybe I'm the one with no ears?...A song that I've often thought is somewhat Neil-ish due to it's structure, pace, and that it leaves a lot of the opaque images it creates unanswered, open ended and open to interpretation is "April 14th part 1" by Gillian Welch.

P.S. Merry Christmas to the Thrashers and everyone in the Thrasherverse!

At 12/22/2023 08:18:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

My nephew got me good today. He asked me if I had heard the Neil Young AI tune “A Horse With No Broadway.” I did search for it and found not much. He asked me to make him a AI Neil Young Christmas song, so I sent him the Neil Young backed song from Ben Keith’s Christmas album:

Your brother / Uncle Alan in Seattle

At 12/24/2023 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Old Black, I am in total agreement. "A Horse with No Name" is an exercise in middle of the road banality in search of a buck. The song smells like a rotten horse carcass.

At 1/02/2024 07:04:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Nicest thing I can say about Horse with No Name is that I barely remember it.


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