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A Man Needs A Maid

by

Neil Young



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Neil Young fell in love with Carrie Snodgress after seeing her in a movie on television, which inspired the lyric, "I fell in love with the actress, she was playing a part that I could understand." Learn more about Young and Snodgress in Song Images. (thanks, Nicole - Massapequa, NY)
The London Symphony Orchestra plays on the album version of the song, as well as several others off of Harvest.
Some people were upset with the characterization of a woman as a "Maid," but the song meant no disrespect - Young wrote it in the spirit of the Robin Hood tale Maid Marion.

Critics have also interpreted the song as being more complex than it initially appears. Rather than being a straightforward expression of how badly a "man needs a maid," it's a heartbroken narrator trying to convince himself that he could be happy with something simple and emotionless - rather than the rocky ups-and-downs of a real relationship. The line "To live a love/you have to be part of it" hints at him realizing how this is an empty sentiment only concocted to try to ward off heartbreak.
Neil Young wrote this about actress Carrie Snodgress, who was his girlfriend at the time. They had a child together named Zeke, who was born with cerebral palsy. They broke up a few years later and things didn't go well for Snodgress. She spent a lot of time caring for Zeke and went was never able to get her acting career back on track. She died in 2004.
Jack Nitzsche, who played piano with The Rolling Stones and wrote soundtracks for many famous movies, produced this track. He dated Snodgress a few years after she broke up with Young and was sentenced to probation after he beat her with a handgun in 1979.
British singer–songwriter Rumer covered this for the special edition of her Boys Don't Cry album. She explained to Q magazine why the song feels like a commentary on why, early in 2011, she broke up with A&R man Sam Winwood. (Rumer had lived with Winwood for several years). "As a travelling musician I couldn't take care of myself," she said. "Letters pile up, dishes pile up, you're not doing anything properly. So you're desperate to be taken care of. Emotionally, you're like a beggar going from door to door, but you can't give anything back. There's a line in the song, 'When will I see you again?' Well, I don't know. I can't commit. My ex-boyfriend said he felt like a field surgeon - putting me back together again."
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Comments (27):

Agree with Adam. The BBC version delivers the song with the best feel. It's not about sex people, it's about love - there is a difference. Just watching everyone in the audience with their chin in their hand, I found mine was too... it's the most beautiful song I've ever heard.
- Bronte, Willaston, Australia
Bob Dylan's has said that this was (is still ?) his favorite Neil Young song.
- G, Chandler, AZ
yawn - Neil's most boring...
- rocco, New York City, NY
I really get tired of people listening to music and not hearing the lyrical significance of the song. It really irritates me that people do not know what they are posting about. If you hear the words to this wonderful masterpiece you will easily understand that he is not talking about maid merian but has obviously momentarily given up on love and is only looking for the services a maid can perform, the words a man needs a maid or butler do not flow the same.
- steven, grand rapids, MI
A great version of this song is included on Neil's CD "Live At Massey Hall".
- Bob, Southfield, MI
Amazing song. You don't have to analyze the lyrics to know that the song speaks of isolation and loneliness. Just the tempo and the pain and resignation in Young's voice says it all.
- Dave, Easton, PA
love the lyrics.
- Sam, Hipsville, CA
This song is fantastic in my oppinion. Some people say that it is sexest, and that it protests that a man should have a woman at his beckon call 24 hours a day. I think that it is in fact more depricating of men. I always felt that it portrays men as useless and lost without women. I don't know the exact quote or who says what but in Of Mice And Men, someone says something about how a man can't do a thing without a woman by his side, and that he's worth nothing alone. Sorry if i've just butchered John Steinback's words there. I have read the book but to be honest, I only remembered the quote from the show Lost. Ben is trying to convince Sawyer that he needs Kate, and that his attempt to appear as though he needs nobody is failing. Ben uses the proper quote to illustrate his point.
- Robert, Glasgow, United Kingdom
This song must be very important to Neil, as he chose to play it twice at his concerts in NYC in Dec 2007. He played it solo on the piano, with an organ available on the piano to do the orchestration part. It was very touching and sweetly done.

By the way, the entire concert, I saw two of them were incredible.
- Paul, Brooklyn, NY
i'm agree with mat and all is beautiful in BBC version there is no time, no place, no sens except love.
tristan,paris, france
- chatelier, viry, France
the lyrics are different in the release of this song live at massey hall. "afraid. a man feels afriad..." replaces "a maid. a man needs a maid..." anyone know why? or what made him change this line before it was released on Harvest?
- Portia, Vancouver, Canada
I'll drink to that Paula. I love this song, and Neil Young. Very depressing though
- Joni, New York, NY
A strange song to appear on Harvest really, bearing in mind the rustic feel of the rest of the album. Best version of this was the solo piano version on the 1971 BBC "In Concert" series, where he does an all acoustic set in my opinion.
- Adam, Sydney, Australia
While he doesn't mention it directly, Young alludes to the song "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" during the opening to the song from the live recording of his 1971 performance at Massey Hall. The song is from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," a popular broadway musical at the time.
- Emily, Boulder, CO
I can understand the confusion about Young's reference to a "maid". But listen to the swell of the music and the emotional changes that take place. The first part is depressed and pathetic, like a man on the ropes. He's not thinking about sex or even love, just survival. A maid means just what he says: someone to do his chores so he can stay in bed. The orchestra comes in strong and Young punches out his reflection: "It's hard to make that change ...."

And then, after a sweet moment of orchestral thought, he realizes: life, and love require engagement - you can't be a passive recipient, no matter how broken you feel.

But healing takes time. So the next time we hear from Young he's reflecting on this movie outing with a friend. And what happens? His emotions come alive again. His sympathy is awakened. He's engaging. The orchestra swells. And now a maid isn't just a housekeeper, she's a help-mate, and he just might risk a real encounter.

I'm not a Young fan in general. But this one's a diamond in the ruff. Real human insight with an artists' touch.
- Matt, Vancouver, Canada
This song is so great and so beautiful too. I always feel like tearing up when I hear it.
- Racine, Truro, MA
I think this song, along with "Sample and Hold", is about a fantasy woman that cleans the house and provides sex with no emotional commitment required of Young.
- Steve, Fenton, MO
This is a great song, which is part of a great album.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
This is a terrific Young song. It reminded me instantly of Tori Amos' "Flying Dutchman". The arrangement is outstanding, and out of character for Mr. Young, but he did it good
- Dennis, Chicagoland burrows, IL
http://www.thrasherswheat.org/friends/snodgress.htm I think this article will clear up the reference to a "maid". I'm not a Young fan, but he wasn't implying anything about female servatude or a mas in "Maid Marion".
- Bridgett, Fort Worth, TX
Well, it's a great song!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
In spite of criticism of the song, Neil Young included it on the compilation "Decade," claiming that one of the reasons for it's inclusion was that Bob Dylan said he liked the arrangement.
- V-tron, reykjavik, Iceland
I heard about that book too, and I heard that it wasn't that good of a book to read, if you wanted to learn about Neil young. The review was to confusing anyway, but that's what I seemed to get out of it. But maybe when we're researching stuff we should not always believe what other people say. Anyway, I think "A Man Needs A Maid" is a beautiful song, especially with all of the orchestration.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
The orchestration may be a bit over the top but its one of only a very few songs which always reduces me to tears (which is why I don't play it very often).
- John, Barnsley, England
On a personal note: Neil, if you still need a maid, I'm available.
- Paula, houston, TX
Jack Nitzshe actually did the string arrangement on this tune. Not sure how the author here mentioned work he did with the Stones while neglecting the work he did on the tune in question....go figure.
- Steve, Louisville, KY
Anyone interested in Neil Young should read his biography "Shakey". I just read that Neil Young wasn't too happy about the release of this book and is suing the author, but I finished this book thinking that the author didn't resort to exploiting or judging his subject. If anything, it made me want to get reacquainted with NY's music, especially in light of the fact that he is the only BIG ROCK STAR that didn't sell his music for commercial purposes. KEEP ON ROCKIN IN THE FREE WORLD.
- Debbiee, Edmonton, Alberta, Argentina
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