Neil Young is an incredibly famous folk singer-songwriter, with hit songs such as “Heart of Gold” and “Rockin’ In the Free World”. Although many certainly know the singers name and a good deal of his work. Many may not realize the troubled life that the singer has lead since his childhood. In addition to many personal health problems, the singer has also experienced numerous familial tragedies over the course of his long career. Still, the singer continues to persevere at the impressive age of 75. Join Facts Verse as we take a look inside Neil Young’s lifelong health struggles.
Neil Young went through many phases of his career before blossoming into the distinctive solo folk artist that he became best known as. He was born in Canada. And played in a band alongside a young Rick James early on in his musical days. Later on, Young began to rise to more mainstream prominence alongside fellow musicians David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash. The band recorded as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for a few albums before Neil decided to go off on his own. The remaining musicians continued as Crosby, Stills & Nash.
As a solo artist, Neil came onto the scene with a fairly distinctive identity. His identity was unique both sonically and aesthetically. As compared to many of the more practiced and stylish folk acts of the era. Neil had a raw appeal both in terms of the way he looked and the way he played. Although he was incredibly talented, there was a stripped back approach to his method of singing and songwriting that struck a primal chord with his audience. As well, his lack of fashion sense and untraditional looks. But it made him somewhat of a stylistic forbearer to the grunge movement of the 1990s. And at least in the eyes of many cultural analysts.
If Neil’s work seemed pained, it was because the singer had experienced many hardships prior to his unlikely rise to fame. These hardships were oddly numerous, and dated back to when Neil was just a boy. Many of the hardships involved medical problems, whether his own or relating to a loved one. Other hardships involved failed relationships. Not only did his parents separate when Neil was young, but he also went on to have turbulent romances of his own. Despite all this, Neil has persevered and is alive today at 75.
Neil’s health troubles started in 1951. When he’s just five years old, he rushed to the hospital by his parents after he had begun struggling to walk. As it turns out, the young man had become afflicted by polio. Although the polio vaccine had become widely available later in the decade, it wasn’t available at the time that young Neil needed it.
Because of the lack of a polio vaccine, Neil was one of many children at the time that contracted the disease. As was common, it had a strong negative affect on the young boy. He hospitalized for a lengthy period of time and eventually had to relearn how to walk. However, he did survive the disease. By the time he was a performing musician, few could’ve known that the man they were seeing was once paralyzed from polio. Still, the disease’s early affects continued to haunt the singer. He underwent surgeries on the lower vertebrae of his spine in later years. And sometimes had to wear a back brace.
While this early onset of polio might be enough to make one’s early childhood seem troubled, this was only the beginning for young Neil. Around the same time that he diagnosed with polio, he diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This meant that, starting at an early age, Neil forced to take routine insulin injections daily. Although these insulin injections allowed Neil to continue to live, they also provided some health complications of their own.
When insulin not properly regulated, it can result in low blood sugar. When someone’s blood sugar gets too low, they can have seizures and become comatose. This has happened to Neil numerous times throughout his life. But has happened much less frequently in more recent years, likely due to advances in insulin regulation technology. Unlike the polio, type 1 diabetes is something that Neil has had to live with for his entire life because there is no known cure.
Besides these serious health problems that Neil afflicted with at a young age, he also had familial troubles at home. His parents’ relationship began deteriorating when Neil was still a young boy. And they separated by the time the young singer was only 12. His father had been an adulterer, and left Neil’s mother to pursue a relationship with another woman. Neil had a sibling named Bob, and Bob went to live with Neil’s father while Neil stayed with their mother.
Despite this odd custody arrangement, Neil managed to remain close to his brother throughout the rest of their childhoods. Neil managed to get through the rest of his childhood relatively unscathed before finding success as a folk singer. However, familial tragedies continued to follow the man throughout the years. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Neil’s first serious romance began in 1970. He saw a movie titled Diary of a Mad Housewife and became fixated on an actress in the movie by the name of Carrie Snodgress. As legend has it, Neil tracked the actress down to a local stage production. And left a note on her dressing room door that said to “call Neil Young”. She called him, and the two were living together a year later.
In 1972, Neil and Carrie had a son. While this should have a happy occasion for the two, tragedy struck when the son, Zeke, diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Only a few years later, Neil called it quits on the marriage and separated from his wife and son. He continued to financially support them, moving them around the city before offering them a permanent fixture. However, Carrie and Zeke’s increasing cost of living as a result of the cerebral palsy became too much for Neil to handle financially. Eventually, Carrie had to take Neil to court, where Neil demanded to make $10,000 monthly payments to Carrie and Zeke.
After separating from Carrie, Neil married a woman named Pegi Morton and had two more kids. Tragedy struck twice more, as both children were diagnosed with serious medical problems early on in their lives. The children were Ben and Amber. Ben was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, like his older half-brother. In Ben, this cerebral palsy caused quadriplegia and prevented him from speaking. Amber’s problems were not quite as severe as those of her two brothers, but she did develop epilepsy. Neil and Pegi remained married until 2014.
In 2005, Neil was granted a new health complication in the form of a brain aneurysm. While performing alongside the Pretenders at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of that year, Neil began feeling strange. He decided to go in for an MRI scan after the performance. And the doctors found that he had an aneurysm. This required immediate medical attention. But Neil decided to postpone immediate surgery in order to make good on a scheduled recording session he had planned that week in Nashville. He did eventually undergo the surgery, and is still alive to this day.
Another issue that has plagued Neil multiple times throughout his life is wildfire, particularly of the California variety. California is a state that is known for it’s wildfires. A phenomenon that Neil adamantly believes is caused by global warming. Neil’s passion regarding this issue could possibly be an indirect result of the fact that two separate properties belonging to the singer have been devoured by California wildfires. Neil has always been very passionate about climate change. And isn’t afraid to use his celebrity status to campaign for political motives.
One more thing that Neil has a lot of, besides health problems and bad luck with love, is enemies. Neil has rubbed many people the wrong way over the course of his musical career, from fellow musicians to politicians. John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles famously derided Neil’s music as being a dark and negative influence on the youth. He also had issues with Crosby, Stills & Nash after his departure, and was disliked by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In 2016, Donald Trump used Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World” during his presidential campaign, much to the chagrin of Neil. Perhaps his vitriol is what has managed to keep him alive all these years despite his medical problems.
After Pegi and Neil divorced in 2014, Neil eventually began dating again. He was found to be dating Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah in 2018. The two collaborated on a film project later that year, directed by Daryl and starring Neil. The film was called Paradox. After all that the singer has been through, it seems like somewhat of a medical paradox that he continues to live and thrive into his old age. Then again, having risen to fame on the back of songs such as “Old Man”, Neil has likely always understood aging.
Neil Young has had an incredibly prolific musical career despite the numerous setbacks that he has faced since childhood. Comment down to below to share your favorite Neil Young project, or if you’re interested in any of the new music that he continues to make to this day. As always, like this video to show your support. And subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!