Neil Young and Nils Lofgren: A Brief History of a Timeless Partnership

A look at the fruits of one of rock's most underrated creative partnerships.
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Young and Lofgren onstage in Paris, September 16, 1982.

Young and Lofgren onstage in Paris, September 16, 1982.

“Fifty years ago, last May, I walked in on Neil and Crazy Horse at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., on their first tour,” Nils Lofgren recalls. 

“Over two nights, I watched four shows and spent the afternoons at the hotel talking with Neil and playing songs. My little group, Grin, was headed to Los Angeles, and, true to his word, when I looked him up in L.A. a few weeks later, Neil turned me on to his producer, David Briggs. They both kind of became my greatest mentors.”

It was a fortuitous set of circumstances that would change the trajectory of Lofgren’s career, setting him on a course that, along with his highly acclaimed work as a solo artist, would lead him to numerous collaborations, including joining Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984, touring in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band in 1989 and working with many other artists, including Young himself.

“A year after meeting Neil, I was 18 and living with David in Topanga Canyon, and we wound up doing the After the Gold Rush album [on which Lofgren played guitar and piano and sang]. That led to Crazy Horse’s first album without Neil, which was [keyboardist] Jack Nitzsche and myself, Danny Whitten on guitar and Ry Cooder guesting. 

Then everyone started dying [Whitten, along with Young’s friend and guitar tech, Bruce Berry, died of drug overdoses], and the result of that was the wake album, Tonight’s the Night [which Young released in 1975]. Then we did the Trans album and tour in the ’80s, and in 1993 I played the MTV Unplugged special with Neil. Throughout it all, I’d also appear with him at the Bridge School Benefit concerts.”