As stated in Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History
, "'Don't Be Denied' is an unguardedly autobiographical tune that traces Young's life from his parent's  divorce to his current dichotomous status as poor in soul but rich in commercial success."
The time of Young's parents' divorce was turbulent, as the separation was anything but amicable. However at the time, 16-year-old Neil was raising chickens and selling the eggs, with plans to go to Ontario Agricultural College and be a farmer. Only his leisure activities foretold his future, when he would hide from his family problems in his room with his transistor radio playing local station CHUM. From this, Young learned admiration for Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and of course Elvis. In 1958, his father bought Neil his first music instrument, a plastic ukulele. His father would later recall, "He would close the door of his room... and we would hear plunk
, pause while he moved his fingers to the next chord, plunk
, pause while he moved again, plunk