Capturing a brief snapshot in music history between Neil Young’s days as a 60s coffeehouse folkie and a chart-topping seventies rock star, this new exhibition at Paddington’s Blender Gallery is a must for music fiends.
Friends of Neil Young’s for many years, photographers and fellow musicians Henry Diltz and Joel Bernstein captured Young in his most intimate moments as an artist and performer on the cusp of stardom.
Their combined series of photographs, some of which have never before been seen by the pubic, give two very different insights into the Canadian music legend.
Bernstein, whose acclaimed work chronicles the inner lives and public moments of some of the most important performers of our time – from Joni Mitchell to Bob Dylan – reflects a contemplative, soulful and even broody side of Young, often with a guitar in hand or slung over his shoulder. Diltz, on the other hand, reveals a more playful side of the artist – a laughing and joking Young.
Most shots were taken just before Young released his first and most famous album Harvest (1972), which contained the hit singles Old Man and Heart of Gold. The record was brimming with deeply personal lyrics, banjos and harmonicas, and went onto become the best-selling album of 1972 and would be the catalyst for on a new strain of North American song-writing.
Young has since recorded no less than 35 albums, including the seminal Rust Never Sleeps (1979), which featured the track Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) which contained the often quoted lyric (that Kurt Cobain cited in his suicide note) "it's better to burn out than to fade away”.
Sydney folk duo, The Falls gave a special rendition of Neil Young’s tunes at the Blender Gallery over the weekend. We asked Melinda Kirwin from The Falls to let us in on her favourites from the exhibition and explain why she thinks Young is an icon.
EP: Favourite Neil Young photo?
MK: My favourite images from the exhibition were all shot by Henry Diltz in 1971 at the Broken Arrow Ranch in California. My favourite photograph is the smiling portrait. I love how happy he looks and the sparkle in his eye. Before seeing this exhibition, I had only seen the more serious side of Neil Young in images, so I really love the way these two photographers have documented so many sides of this great man's personality.
Favourite Neil Young song?
Mmmm, I have a lot of favourites but Heart of Gold has really been resonating with me lyrically lately. It's what I'm searching for too... We perform it with just an acoustic guitar, two voices, and a stompbox under Simon's left foot. Oh, and I play harmonica.
What do you think it is about his music that transcends eras?
I think Neil Young wrote great songs and I think that is exactly what all great songs do. They transcend eras and people can relate to the themes within them decades after they are written. A good songwriter writes lyrics and melodies that connect with people and stir up their emotions. Neil Young is one of those songwriters.
Two Takes on Neil Young – Photographs by Joel Bernstein & Henry Diltz is showing until December 3 at the Blender Gallery, Paddington.