3 Songs You Didn’t Know Neil Young Wrote for Other Artists

Neil Young remains one of the most interesting names in music. In one sense, he’s an all-timer. From bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to his solo work, the man is a legend when it comes to songwriting, singing and performance.

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But Young has also been one of the most significant artists of the past few years thanks to his well-publicized battle against Spotify. He has done the seemingly impossible: stay relevant in the moment.

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These days, the 77-year-old Canadian-born Young has also been releasing music seemingly left and right from his bootleg collections. Obscure live albums, records with Crazy Horse and more. But below we examine another side of Young’s work. The songs he wrote for other musicians and performers. Here are three songs you likely didn’t know Young wrote for other artists.

1. “Barefoot Floors,” Nicolette Larson

Written by Neil Young

Those who have been following Young’s career know that the man has recorded more songs than practically anyone on Earth. These days, it seems like every month Young releases a new LP or three from his archives. For example, his album, Homegrown, was released in 2020, but it includes songs recorded in the mid-1970s. “Barefoot Floors” is one of those songs. Written and tracked in the mid-’70s, the song didn’t come out until 2020, though a demo outtake was shared on the famous Neil Young Archives website. In between, Nicolette Larson “covered” the song for her 1994 album, Sleep, Baby, Sleep, making her the first to officially release the song. On it, Larson sings,

Sleep, baby sleep
I know your day has been o so long
Sleep, baby sleep
I know your day has been o so long
The night falls at your feet
Now the day feels so complete
Compared to darkness
Sleep, baby sleep

2. “Music Is Love,” David Crosby

Written by Neil Young, Graham Nash, David Crosby

This song comes from iconic folk artist David Crosby’s 1971 debut LP If I Could Only Remember My Name. The record was released in the wake of the popular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 1970 record, Déjà Vu. Along with his bandmates, Crosby also worked with Jerry Garcia and Joni Mitchell on the album. As for “Music Is Love,” the song was the first single released to promote the LP. It hit No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100. On the acoustic-driven song, Young plays guitar and adds vocals. And Crosby sings,

Everybody’s saying music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s you know it is, mmm
Everyone yes everyone
Everyone’s saying music music is love
Everybody’s saying that music is love
Everybody’s saying it’s love

3. “(See the Sky) About to Rain,” The Byrds

Written by Neil Young

While this is technically a cover, too, the Byrds version of “(See the Sky) About to Rain” was released over a year before the song came out on Young’s 1974 LP, On the Beach. Formed in 1964 in California, The Byrds released their final album, Byrds, 10 years later in 1974. It was the band’s 12th and final studio record. The LP also includes a cover of Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand.” But it’s on this reflective, observant acoustic-driven song, the folk band’s frontman Roger McGuinn sings,

See the sky about to rain
Broken clouds and rain
Locomotive pull the train
Whistle blowing through my brain

Signals curling on an open plain
Rolling down the track again
See the sky about to rain

Some are bound for happiness
Some are bound for glory
Some are bound to live with less
Who can tell your story

Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns

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