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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Post-1970s Neil Young Songs

See what song managed to beat ‘Harvest Moon,’ ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘I’m The Ocean’

Neil Young; Best Songs; Post 1970

Neil Young performs live on stage with Crazy Horse at Madison Square Garden, New York on September 27th 1978 during his One Stop World Tour.

Richard E. Aaron/Getty

Few people would dispute that Neil Young reached the peak of his critical and commercial career in the 1970s. But that doesn't mean his output since then has been underwhelming. He's maintained a tireless work ethic over the past 36 years, boldly leaping from genre to genre with little regard for what seems like a safe bet in the marketplace. This June he will release Earth, his sixth album in just five years. We figured it was a perfect time to poll our readers and determine their favorite Young tunes since the 1970s.  

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NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Neil Young performs live on stage with Crazy Horse at Madison Square Garden, New York on September 27 1978 during his One Stop World Tour (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)


“Rockin’ in the Free World”

Neil Young was on tour with the Restless – which included Crazy Horse guitarist Frank "Poncho" Sampedro – in February of 1989 when word came down that a planned performance in Russia had fallen apart. "Neil was like, 'Damn, I really wanted to go,'" Sampedro told Rolling Stone in 2013. "I said, 'Me, too. I guess we'll have to keep on rockin' in the free world.'" The phrase stuck in Young's head, and he quickly fleshed it out into a whole song that references everything from Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign ("Keep Hope Alive") to George H.W. Bush's RNC speech ("we have a thousand points of light") and the crack epidemic that was ravaging America's inner cities. They debuted it onstage at a Seattle show the very next day and it became a key track on 1989's Freedom. It's been played live with nearly every band Young has toured with in the past 25 years, but the best version may come from Saturday Night Live backed by Steve Jordan, Charlie Drayton and Poncho. 

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