On February 1, 1972, the LP Harvest was released, signed by Neil Young and which became his album with the best popular reception until then. Among the merits of the work, the first of all was logically its content, a handful of songs, some of which became milestones in one of the most extensive discographies of North American music in the last half century. And among them Heart of gold (Heart of gold) that put him in point of attention and praise of a much broader and even generalist hobby.
At that time Young was by no means a minority artist, but was already an artist, musician and composer of an outstanding entity and considered a figure in his own right. Not for the general public perhaps, but already then and like very few others it condensed what could be called North American rock: a combination of rock and folk in unsettled proportions, which in his case swung between hard rock, country and at times in the that years later would be described as grunge.
They were already major and historical words that at that time treasured his career. Because when the Canadian Young (Toronto, 1945) published Harvest, he was releasing his fourth solo studio album and eighth in total up to then, adding the three he had recorded with Buffalo Springfield and the famous Déjà vu (1970) as member of the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash
When Young started Harvest he was a singer-songwriter in his twenties, undoubtedly a millionaire, in love and with back pain. The photo that can be seen on the back cover of the album that hosts him gives some clues about the time and circumstances of the recording: there he is seen wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and with his long hair covering almost his entire face, strumming a electric guitar and slightly hunched over from the aforementioned pain. He is in a barn, wooden boards and a few bales of straw, which is part of the ranch that had just been bought for half a million dollars, and he does so accompanied by the four musicians who masterfully dimensioned the compositions on the album.
These form a very diverse and even disjointed work, but paradoxically more popular, as evidenced by the impact it had among the Heart of Gold fans, which has ended up becoming the only number one on the American charts that Young has. There are elements that fly over the stylistic variety of the songs and a large part of their lyrics, among them that their author at that time was in love. Specifically Carrie Snodgress, the Californian actress she had seen in the movie Diary of a Desperate Wife (1970) and that she wanted to meet yes or yes. And indeed, Snodgress, nominated for an Oscar for best actress and winner of the Golden Globe, ended up meeting him, forming a couple and having a son with him, Zeke, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
The composition and recording of the album was long and quite hectic. Especially since he had surgery for a back problem caused by moving a plank in his brand new home. To alleviate the pain, he also began to take marijuana, and to replace the electric guitar with the less heavy acoustic one. To that physical slowness it was necessary to add that the recording was made in four different places, that is, his Californian ranch, a live cut in Los Angeles, London and Nashville. In this one he had some formidable studio musicians, who were responsible for The Stray Gators and where the pianist Jack Nitzsche and the guitarist Ben Keith stood out, and who did not separate from him for the next almost 40 years.
The best rhythmically friendly and lyrically beautiful country rock pearls like Heart of Gold were created in the Nashville sessions. It also had the attractive vocal collaboration of James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt, she was a star at the time and who a few months ago confessed that "I love Heart of gold, from the chop-chop-choop rhythm of the guitar to the start, one already knows which is a great song”. In it, the enamored Young, who confesses to being a miner in search of a heart of gold, cannot help but recognize that he may not be able to respond lovingly to what the other party needs.
In 1976, the actress and the rocker parted ways, but there remained those glorious and eternal verses: "I want to live/I want to give/I've been a miner/For a heart of gold".