Mr. Soul

Album: Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Mr. Soul" was written and performed by Neil Young, the contested frontman for Buffalo Springfield, backed up by co-frontmen Richie Furay and Stephen Stills. It forms the first track of their second album Buffalo Springfield Again.
  • One hardly knows where to begin with this song's lyrics. In just three short verses with no chorus, Young practically flaunts his lyrical prowess at this early stage in his career. He invokes both Beatles and early proto-punk, in verses that manage to be both angry and whimsical at the same time. Like the team of Lennon-McCartney, Young and Stills experienced friendly rivalry with their equally matched talents that also inspired each of them to top the other, bringing their work to an edginess that drove them to brilliance.
  • At the time of "Mr. Soul," Young was wavering on leaving the band. His first departure was on the eve of Buffalo Springfield's booking to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which he was vehemently opposed to. Young later told British music magazine Mojo, "I thought it was belittling what the Buffalo Springfield was doing. That audience wouldn't have understood us. We'd have been just a f--kin' curiosity to them."

    Along with missing The Tonight Show, Young's sudden departure also cast a cold shadow over Buffalo Springfield's appearance at the now-legendary 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival. Buffalo Springfield brought in Doug Hastings to substitute on guitar and had Stephen Stills' friend David Crosby drop by to assist with the Festival appearance, but even so, the group's performance suffered so much that they were dropped from the Pennebaker documentary.
  • The book Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History says that this song "was likely more indicative of where his [Young's] head truly was. Much like the songs from the Springfield's debut, 'Mr. Soul' suggests that Young's work was still razor-sharp, even when it was coming from a very unhappy place."

    While we're book-hopping, there are some ties between Buffalo Springfield members and Al Kooper (of Blues Project / Blood Sweat & Tears fame). In Kooper's memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Kooper consulted with David Crosby when the idea of Blood Sweat & Tears was forming in his mind, and also recruited Jim Fielder (Frank Zappa and the Mothers alumni), who also part of Buffalo Springfield when they were seeking a replacement for Bruce Palmer's continuous absences. And then Stephen Stills himself popped by to fill in for Mike Bloomfield when Kooper, in a panic, called him to help complete the album Super Session. There, is that enough threads weaving everything together?
  • Robin Lane ran in Young's circle in the late '60s. She also lived with him for some time and sang on "Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)." Lane told Songfacts that the song "Mr. Soul" was inspired in some way by the death of Lenny Bruce, who died less a year before the song was recorded. In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough writes that Young himself had no recollection of the Bruce connection.

Comments: 10

  • Xaurreaux from NycI heard that Neil originally wrote Mr. Soul for Otis Redding.
  • Simona from ColoradoAm I the only one that thinks this riff is Satisfaction by the Stones. IDK this original, but just heard Kenny Wayne Shepherd's version & I thought he was playing Satisfaction, til I heard the lyrics. I actually prefer the KWS version, no Neil Y singing!
  • Global Method from GreeceYour insights are so much appreciated! ... Thank You!
  • Robert from DetroitA source no less than Sirius' Earl Bailey, said that the song was about Marvin Gaye. Anyone see the connection?
  • Ricky from Ohsweken, -GREAT guitar work here. Anyone know what kind of guitar it is?
  • Ken from Philadelphia, PaRegarding Neil Young's absence from the Buffalo Springfield at Monterey Pop, it might be interesting for some to know that, by all accounts (including from members of the band), David Crosby's work was positively awful onstage and it was a large part (if not the total reason) why the Springfield was edited out of the Pennebaker documentary.
  • Adam from West Palm Beach, FlOf course, that aforementioned rivalry could have the intensity and/or nastiness usually in reserve for, say, the Hatfields vs. the McCoys...
  • Farrah from Elon, NcAwesome song by Buffalo Springfield.
  • Bob from Southfield, MiAnother track on the same album entitled "Broken Arrow" opens with a live version of "Mr. Soul". However, instead of Neal Young, Dewey Martin, the group's drummer is mysteriously singing the lead vocal.
  • Valentin from Beijing, Chinathe riff is quite similar to Stones' "Satisfaction"
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