Happy 75th Birthday Neil Young!

Neil Young Never Rusts

Ever prolific, the Canadian-born troubadour has reached a venerable milestone as he turns 75 years of age.

Neil Young has performed in pop culture’s spotlight of fame since his singular, contra tenor vocals rose out of the folk-rock scene of the psychedelic ‘60s. A maverick among recording and concert artists, he has just as often performed outside of that proverbial spotlight, since he cares nothing forto the whims of public popularity or the critics who’ve blow hot and cold across his career, even as his legions of fans, both casual and hardcore, remain receptive and appreciative.

Whatever has inspired or driven this reclusive man to make public music, he has done so on his own terms, year after year, moving like a chameleon through the decades, at times absorbing current musical trends and letting them influence his artistic explorations, while returning again and again to the bedrock style of folkie acoustic music and turgid electric rock n roll that remains truly unlike any other artist. The possible exceptions are those who have emulated the rough edges and raw emotional effect of Young’s writing, playing, and singing, but are never able to come near his inimitable panache.

As far as I am concerned, no single composition encapsulates what it is to be Neil Young as Natural Beauty. A social ballad, more than political, it pleads for the preservation what little of pristine nature remains in the world, mixed with the artist’s feelings about the short-sighted results of modern consumerism. Natural Beauty is Neil Young at his most pure and unadorned, an artist who creates art in the spontaneity of the moment and who would likely be unleashing the same art into the world whether anyone showed up to listen or no. And here below is a very good performance of that song.

A melancholy mood is set from first notes, with music that is as languid and haunting as can be heard from an acoustic guitar, wafting and echoing, at times immense, as the tentative peal of his harmonica rises up, like the lonely call of some wild bird. So very Neil – unhurried, simple in construction yet as pregnant and poignant as the swollen, ancient river he will soon be singing about .

Then come the lyrics. Gruff and at times as cryptic as a Pinter play, his imperfect poetry glows with the power of the emotional depths surging below the surface, conveying much more than the words do when read at face value, as they float along the meandering current of his guitar, with the verses set out like musical bridges between the soul-wrenching laments wailing from his mouth harp, which seem to express what words cannot.

There was another performance of this song from around the same time period, recorded in Ireland, and put on the internet by someone who disabled the ability to embed it elsewhere. And now it seems to have been removed and is no longer available. A pity. But this one above, recorded for some television program or other, is still a good one. For me, this song gets me right in the heart strings every time I hear it, no matter the specific performance. Far from being a hit, or even well-known, I put it on the very short list at the top of his many worthy and worthwhile compositions.

Like Dylan’s original version of Visions of Johanna, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been present in the room and heard Neil Young performing a previously unknown song and have Natural Beauty unfold in all its ragged glory.

Far from slowing down, the septuagenarian singer-songwriter has released three albums in less than a year, including his 40th LP album of original material, Homegrown, (June 2020, but recorded in 1974-75), and most recently, September’s solo EP entitled, The Times, featuring performances streamed from his home during the COVID-19 isolation, and November’s Return to Greendale, a live album recorded in 2003. And in June of 2019, he released his 39th LP of new original material, Colorado, recorded that summer with his time rock band, Crazy Horse, that now includes longtime sideman Nils Lofgren standing guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, who retired in 2014.

And speaking of Sampedro and Crazy Horse, here I begin a slew of Neil Young Videos that remain close to my heart.

Powderfinger, when it was brand new:

Powderfinger from Live Rust

Unfortunately the version from Live Rust is only available on Facebook.

Here is a more obscure tune, but awesome Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Ramada Inn:

Lookout for My Love, from MTV Unplugged:

Featuring Nils Lofgren: guitar,  Ben Keith: Dobro,  Spooner Oldham: keyboards, Tim Drummond: bass, Oscar Butterworth: drums,  Astrid Young & Nicolette Larson: backing vocals

Transformer Man:

That he certainly is.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 1970

Various Excerpts from the film Time Fades Away


The Loner -1970

Appropriately enough, solo

Walk Like a Giant – 2012

Speaking of IMMENSE!

More videos in the article about Neil’s acoustic guitars at One Man’s Guitar (coming soon.)



T Spoon Phillips Music for a Socially Distant Audience

Spend and Hour with Your Humble Spoon

T Spoon Phillips Live Every Wednesday!

T Spoon Phillips Live Social Distancing

Live from Brooklyn.  On YouTube Live, that is!

Each Wednesday at 3 PM Eastern (7 PM British Summer Time) and 8 PM Eastern (5 PM West Coast.)

Go to Youtube and search for onemanzguitar if you are not already a subscriber.

If the first video listed doesn’t say “LIVE,” keep refreshing your screen until it does.

Early American Guitars: the Instruments of C.F. Martin – Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin ivory fingerboard Metropolitan Museum of Art

An after-hours reception was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last night, where an invited group of some 60 guests were treated to a private viewing of the exhibit Early American Guitars: the Instruments of C.F. Martin, which opened to the public earlier that day.

The exhibit is located in the museum’s André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments, Gallery 684, now through December 7, 2014.

Trained in the Vienna style of guitar making championed by Johann Stauffer, Christian Frederick Martin emigrated from Saxony to New York City in 1833, where he set up business on Hudson Street, near the present location of the Holland Tunnel. By the 1840s he had moved to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where his great-great-great-grandson, C.F. Martin IV currently serves as C.E.O. of the family business, one of the oldest in the USA. In time, C.F. Sr. experimented his way to inventing a guitar design that was uniquely American, and which evolved directly into almost every flattop steel-string acoustic guitar seen today.

Historic Display

This exhibition features the largest collection of Martin’s work ever put on public display, culled from private collections and Martin Guitar’s own museum, to augment instruments already at the Met. While Martins made before the Civil War are extremely rare, present are some of the most visually exquisite examples, many with ornate inlay and decoration, as well as the most historically significant, including the earliest known guitar to feature the X-brace pattern supporting the soundboard, ubiquitous among modern guitars, and the earliest guitar yet discovered that bears Martin’s signature. Also included in the exhibit of thirty-five instruments are some made by other lesser known luthiers from America, as well as Austro-German and Spanish guitars with designs that influenced Martin’s earlier development.

Early American Guitars: the Instruments of C.F. Martin Metropolitan Museum of Art receptionIn addition to select museum supporters, in attendance was Kerry Keane of Christie’s, guitarists Woody Mann and Craig Thatcher, veteran dealers in Martins and other guitars such as Stan Jay of Mandolin Brothers, Steve Uhrick of Musurgia, Fred Oster of Vintage Instruments, Buzzy Levine of Lark St. Music, Jim Bollman of the Music Emporium, and Matt Umanov of Umanov Guitars, along with luthiers Rudy Pensa, Steven Kovacik, and David LaPlante. It was LaPlante whose detective work recognized and established the likely influence upon Martin by builders of the Cadiz style of Spanish guitars, which evolved parallel to the Viennese style. His findings make up a key chapter in the new book that has come out in conjunction with the exhibit.

Published by Hal Leonard Books, Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations of C.F. Martin and His Contemporaries is comprised of beautiful photography, and essays by several experts in nineteenth-century musical instruments. It also features a concise and most excellent forward by the Met’s own Jayson Kerr Dobney, Associate Curator in the Department of Musical Instruments. Peter Szego, the mastermind behind the book, was also present for the viewing and reception. An in-depth review of the book is slated for later this month at onemanz.com.

Mystery Solved

During a chat with Chris Martin, he revealed to me that he had spent much of his life wondering how and why his illustrious ancestor made the leap from the Stauffer-style parlor guitars to his own unique design that gave rise to modern American guitars. It was only when the book project and exhibit came together that it became clear it was actually a three-point process. He began with Viennese guitars, started making Spanish guitars to appeal to a broader range of customers, and ultimately combined them with his innovative bracing patterns to arrive at the design that would instigate the evolution toward today’s steel-string guitars.

“Now I understand why he used a fake Spanish foot!” Chris said, after thinking about the implications. “You know, he would put a Spanish foot inside the guitar, even though he was using a dovetail neck joint. So he would put in a fake one that didn’t do anything. I guess because people who liked Spanish guitars probably wanted to see that feature.”

 Woody Mann, Matt Umanov, Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin

Woody Mann and Matt Umanov

 Martin Guitar executives Metropolitan Museum of Art Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin

Martin Executives with
C.F. Martin IV and Peter Szego
(center two figures)

 Craig Thatcher, Nyke van Wyk, Early American Guitars: The Instruments of C. F. Martin

Nyke van Wyk and
Craig Thatcher

 Music with Mustard Seed and Cornichons

Martins of that era sported gut strings and were played by concert artists and discerning amateurs to perform classical music. Today, steel-string Martins are the premier choice of acoustic guitars for players of bluegrass, country, folk, and rock n roll. Modern Martins are represented in the exhibit by the 1939 000-42 that Eric Clapton used in his trendsetting performance on MTV-Unplugged, on loan from the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Another seen last night was found in the hands of Craig Thatcher, who performed on an Eric Clapton signature model, while the guests enjoyed the latter part of the evening conversing over a lavish offering of crudité, smoked salmon and local farm cheeses.

Additional Events

There will be a series of concerts in conjunction with the exhibit by recording artists like Rosanne Cash, and Laurence Juber, as well as free live performances in the museum’s Charles Engelhard Court throughout the year. In addition, at least two educational programs are currently scheduled: How Did They Do That?; Early American Guitars will take place on March 8 and 9; and a Sunday at the Met presentation is set for March 16.


A very special thank you to Dick Boak, Head of Artist Relations at C.F. Martin & Co., for the invitation, and everything else he has ever done since the day he was caught taking scrap wood out of a Martin dumpster and given a job at the factory.

For more information on Early American Guitars: the Instruments of C.F. Martin go to:


Photo Gallery from exhibit, for those who cannot make it to NYC to see it

Early American Guitars: the Instruments of C.F. Martin Metrpolitcan Museum of Art door

Related Reading:

Impressionists, Fashion and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – a review

Martin Authentic Series – detailed reviews of exacting replicas of vintage pre-war Martins