Heart of Gold (Neil Young song)

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"Heart of Gold"
Heart of Gold by Neal Yound single cover.jpg
Single by Neil Young
from the album Harvest
B-side"Sugar Mountain"
ReleasedJanuary 1972 (U.S.)
Format45 rpm record
RecordedFebruary 6–7, 1971
StudioQuadrafonic Sound, Nashville, Tennessee
Songwriter(s)Neil Young
Neil Young singles chronology
"When You Dance I Can Really Love"
"Heart of Gold"
"Old Man"
Audio sample

"Heart of Gold" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young. Released from the 1972 album Harvest, it is so far Young's only U.S. No. 1 single. In Canada, it reached No. 1 on the RPM national singles chart for the first time on April 8, 1972, on which date Young held the top spot on both the singles and albums charts.[2] Billboard ranked it as the No. 17 song for 1972.[3] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 297 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.[4]


The song, which features backup vocals by James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, is one of a series of soft acoustic pieces which were written partly as a result of a back injury. Unable to stand for long periods of time, Young could not play his electric guitar and so returned to his acoustic guitar, which he could play sitting down. He also played his harmonica during the three instrumental portions, including the introduction to the song.[5][6]

"Heart of Gold" was recorded during the initial sessions for Harvest on February 6–-8 1971 at Quadrafonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.[7] Ronstadt (who herself would later cover Young's song "Love Is a Rose") and Taylor were in Nashville at the time for an appearance on Johnny Cash's television program, and the album's producer Elliot Mazer arranged for them to sing backup for Young in the studio.[8][9]

Young played this song in 1971 solo shows before recording it. At a January 19 concert (preserved on Live at Massey Hall 1971, released in 2007) he played it on piano, starting with "A Man Needs a Maid" and then segueing into this song. By the time of Harvest he had separated the two songs and played "Heart of Gold" on guitar and harmonica.

Young wrote in the liner notes of his 1977 compilation album Decade: "This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there." This statement was in response to the mainstream popularity that he gained as a result of the number-one status of "Heart of Gold".

In 1985, Bob Dylan admitted that he disliked hearing this song, despite always liking Neil Young:[10]

The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about '72 and the big song at the time was "Heart of Gold". I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to "Heart of Gold." I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I'd say, "Shit, that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me."

Willie Nelson and other versions[edit]

A cover by Willie Nelson peaked at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in 1987.[11]

A cover by Charles Bradley was released by Daptone Records [12]


In 2005, "Heart of Gold" was named the third greatest Canadian song of all time on the CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. It ranked behind only Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000" and Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds",[13] the latter covered by Young on his 1978 album Comes a Time.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[14] 30
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[15] 17
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[16] 6
Ireland (IRMA)[17] 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[18] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[19] 8
New Zealand (Listener)[20] 10
Norway (VG-lista)[21] 4
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[22] 8
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[23] 10
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Easy Listening[24] 8



  1. ^ "Harvest". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-07-21.
  2. ^ List of Canadian number-one albums of 1972
  3. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972
  4. ^ Rollingstone.com, Issue 963, December 9, 2004 (subscription required). See also Wikipedia article
  5. ^ McDonough, Jim, Shakey, Random 2002, pp. 352-354, 370.
  6. ^ Crowe, Cameron, Neil Young, the Last American Hero. Rolling Stone, February 8, 1989, webpage found 2007-11-29.
  7. ^ See video recording on YouTube
  8. ^ "Thrasher", Neil Young's Heart of Gold, web page found 2007-11-29.
  9. ^ Elliot Mazer, Neil Young's Heart of Gold Archived 2004-11-22 at the Wayback Machine. In Mix, 2001-05-01, webpage found 2007-11-29.
  10. ^ December 1985 Spin archive, Bob Dylan: Not Like a Rolling Stone Interview[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Hot Country Songs 1944–2012. Record Research, Inc. p. 238. ISBN 978-0-89820-203-8.
  12. ^ Daptone Records 2011
  13. ^ '50 Tracks' list of essential Canadian music, 2005
  14. ^ "Ultratop.be – Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  15. ^ "Ultratop.be – Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  16. ^ "Musicline.de – Neil Young Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  17. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Heart of Gold". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Neil Young" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  19. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Neil Young – Heart of Gold" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  20. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 15 May 1972
  21. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Neil Young – Heart of Gold". VG-lista.
  22. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 263.

External links[edit]