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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)

4

“Unknown Legend”

Not long after Neil Young split up with actress Carrie Snodgress, he became enchanted with a waitress named Pegi at a diner near his ranch. They married in August of 1978, and 14 years later, he turned their love story in the leadoff track on Harvest Moon. "She used to work in a diner," he sang. "Never saw a woman look finer/I used to order just to watch her float across the floor." Fans worried their divorce might mean he'd never do the song again (sort of like Bob Dylan with "Sara"), but it's been a regular highlight of the 2015 tour with Promise of the Real. 

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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)

3

“I’m the Ocean”

Pearl Jam were one of the biggest bands in the world in 1995 when they teamed up with Neil Young, one of their largest influences, to record Mirror Ball. Eddie Vedder's involvement was extremely minimal and Pearl Jam's label wouldn't allow their name to appear on the cover, but this was very much a collaborative project. In typical Young fashion, it was tossed together in a matter of days and is somewhat of a mixed bag. The clear highlight is "I'm the Ocean," a seven-minute epic in which Young reflects on his fast-paced life. "I'm not present, I'm a drug that makes you dream," he sings. "I'm an Aerostar, I'm a Cutlass Supreme/In the wrong lane, trying to turn against the flow." He hasn't played it since he took Crazy Horse on the HORDE tour in 1997. 

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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)

2

“Harvest Moon”

"I'm not trying to go back and recreate where I was when I did Harvest," Neil Young said around the time Harvest Moon came out. "The idea is to sing about the same subject matter with 20 years more experience. I'm stronger than I was then." He was also happily married, and the album is packed full of songs about his devotion to Pegi. The title track wasn't a huge hit, but it's become of his most beloved tunes from any era, and he's performed it at least 275 times. He also shot a sweet video for it where he dances in a bar with Pegi. 

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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)

1

“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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