A Man Needs A Maid


  • 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.
  • Initially, "A Man Needs A Maid" was coupled with "Heart of Gold" and played on piano. "It was like a medley," Young said in Shakey, "the two went together."

    One line cut after the original song became two was, "Afraid. A man feels afraid."
  • 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.
  • The London Symphony Orchestra plays on the album version of the song, as well as another track from Harvest, "There's A World." These were the only tracks on the album that weren't recorded in Nashville; Young booked the orchestra and recorded them at Barking Town Hall in London while on a trip there to record a BBC special.
  • Some 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 became smitten with Carrie Snodgress after seeing her on television while he was recovering from a back injury; her 1970 film Diary of a Mad Housewife was playing. This inspired the lyric, "I fell in love with the actress, she was playing a part that I could understand." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nicole - Massapequa, NY
  • Nick Kent of the New Musical Express (December 13, 1975) was critical of this song, calling it the "obligatory autobiographical musings on the superstar's emotional insecurities."

    Geoffrey Cannon of Melody Maker (January 29, 1972) stated, "'A Man Needs A Maid' is orchestrated as elaborately as an old Spector production; except that there's no wall of sound here. It can be compared with 'Broken Arrow,' except that Neil now has more resources."
  • 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 traveling 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."

Comments: 30

  • Glady from 91351beautiful as always even still fitting even after 48yrs
  • David from PhiladelphiaA wonderful powerful song. And I agree, it has nothing to do with having a maid. Neil is just expressing he feelings of heartache and being alone.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 8th 1972, Neil Young and his at the time girlfriend, actress Carrie Snodgress, became the parents of a son, Zeke...
    At the time his quadruple platinum album, 'Harvest', was at #43 and its 28th week on the Billboard's Top 200 Album chart and according to Billboard Magazine was the bestselling album of 1972...
    “A Man Needs a Maid” was track three of side one on the album…
    Sadly, the Oscar-nominated* Carrie Snodgress passed away on April 1st, 2004 at the young age of 58 and Neil Percival Young will celebrate his 69th birthday in two months on November 12th {2014}...
    * nominated for 'Best Actress' for the 1970 movie 'Diary of a Mad Housewife'.
  • Bronte from Willaston, AustraliaAgree 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.
  • G from Chandler, AzBob Dylan's has said that this was (is still ?) his favorite Neil Young song.
  • Rocco from New York City, Nyyawn - Neil's most boring...
  • Steven from Grand Rapids, MiI 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.
  • Bob from Southfield, MiA great version of this song is included on Neil's CD "Live At Massey Hall".
  • Dave from Easton, PaAmazing 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.
  • Sam from Hipsville, Calove the lyrics.
  • Robert from Glasgow, United KingdomThis 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.
  • Paul from Brooklyn, NyThis 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.
  • Chatelier from Viry, Francei'm agree with mat and all is beautiful in BBC version there is no time, no place, no sens except love.
    tristan,paris, france
  • Portia from Vancouver, Canadathe 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?
  • Joni from New York, NyI'll drink to that Paula. I love this song, and Neil Young. Very depressing though
  • Adam from Sydney, AustraliaA 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.
  • Emily from Boulder, CoWhile 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.
  • Matt from Vancouver, CanadaI 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.
  • Racine from Truro, MaThis song is so great and so beautiful too. I always feel like tearing up when I hear it.
  • Steve from Fenton, MoI 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.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThis is a great song, which is part of a great album.
  • Dennis from Chicagoland Burrows, IlThis 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
  • Bridgett from Fort Worth, Txhttp://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".
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScWell, it's a great song!
  • V-tron from Reykjavik, IcelandIn 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.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI 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.
  • John from Barnsley, EnglandThe 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).
  • Paula from Houston, TxOn a personal note: Neil, if you still need a maid, I'm available.
  • Steve from Louisville, KyJack 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.
  • Debbiee from Edmonton, Alberta, ArgentinaAnyone 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.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Billy Joe ShaverSongwriter Interviews

The outlaw country icon talks about the spiritual element of his songwriting and his Bob Dylan mention.

Gilby ClarkeSongwriter Interviews

The Guns N' Roses rhythm guitarist in the early '90s, Gilby talks about the band's implosion and the side projects it spawned.

JJ Burnel of The StranglersSongwriter Interviews

JJ talks about The Stranglers' signature sound - keyboard and bass - which isn't your typical strain of punk rock.

Emilio Castillo from Tower of PowerSongwriter Interviews

Emilio talks about what it's like to write and perform with the Tower of Power horns, and why every struggling band should have a friend like Huey Lewis.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).

Ed Roland of Collective SoulSongwriter Interviews

The stories behind "Shine," "December," "The World I Know" and other Collective Soul hits.