Young has never said who the Cinnamon Girl is, as he prefers to leave lyric interpretations to the listener. In the liner notes of his Decade compilation, he stated: "Wrote this for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me thru Phil Ochs eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife."
Phil Ochs was a folk/protest singer active in the '60s who had issues with his mental stability (although his paranoia about the FBI turned out not to be far off). Young's wife at the time was Susan Acevedo; they were married for just one year at this point.
Though Young would not identify his muse, the bit about finger cymbals is a reference to '60s folk singer Jean Ray, who performed with then-husband Jim Glover under the name Jim and Jean. Phil Ochs, a close friend of a couple, penned the title song to their second album, Changes.
Brian Ray, Paul McCartney's guitarist and Jean's younger brother, claims the song is indeed about his sister. Jean, herself, said she inspired another Neil Young song from the Everybody Knows This is Nowhere album: "Cowgirl in the Sand."
In the book Shakey, Young copped to having a crush on Ray. When asked if she is the Cinnamon Girl, Young said, "Only part of the song. There's images in there that have to do with Jean and there's images that have to do with other people."
Young recorded this with his band Crazy Horse. It was originally released on the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album in 1969. Young put out an alternate version as a single in 1970, which did well partly because he was getting exposure as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.
In Neil Young: Long May You Run: The Illustrated History
, Neil Young talked about poaching the band The Rockets for the formation of Crazy Horse, who he first recorded with on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
: "The truth is, I probably did steal them away from the pother band, which was a good band. But only because what we did, we went somewhere." He later goes on to say, "That's the hardest part, is the guilt of the trail of destruction that I've left behind me."
In the same work, it is also mentioned that "With songs such as 'Cinnamon Girl,' 'Down By The River
,' and 'Cowgirl in the Sand,' Crazy Horse clearly gave Neil Young the kind of sympathetic and almost telepathic backing he needed." Neil Young went on to declare Crazy Horse "the American Rolling Stones."
The band Type O Negative did a remake on their 1996 album October Rust. The song was also covered by Smashing Pumpkins on the Reel Sessions bootleg.
That's Danny Whitten singing high harmony on this this song with Young. Whitten was a singer/guitarist in Young's backing band Crazy Horse, which released its own album in 1970 featuring a few Whitten compositions, including "I Don't Want To Talk About It
," later a #1 UK hit for Rod Stewart. Whitten spent his last years battling a heroin addiction, and in 1972 died after overdosing on alcohol and Valium.
The liner notes to Decade reveal that "Down by the River," "Cinnamon Girl," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" all in a single afternoon - while sick with a 103 degree temperature. Also, they were recorded after being together with the band Crazy Horse for only two weeks."
Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot recalled to Uncut magazine in 2021: "What I remember about 'Cinnamon Girl' is the four of us playing it - me, Ralph (Molina), Danny (Whitten) and Neil and realizing, 'Oh yeah, we can do this.' There's Danny's guitar, there's Neil's voice and guitar, and Ralph and I just need to keep the beat.
When you are inside a song like that, it's something beautiful. It sounded good and I liked it, then we got to the bridge and I loved it! We were able to get very psychedelic; we could slow it down and it got bigger and even more beautiful. I don't think we worked on it for long, we really did just play it once or twice before we got the take."
When legendary British DJ "Whispering Bob" Harris made his BBC Radio 1 debut on the August 19, 1970 episode of Sounds of the Seventies, "Cinnamon Girl" was the first record he played.
The writer says I was a high school track star and discovered. a foot powder that I used a spoon to dump into my Chinese manufactured tube socks. It cures my athletes foot but my unmotivated teammates never worked hard like I did at the deciding event, the 800 meter relay.
That is of course a parody of the absolutely asinine explanations writers of songs with lots of drug references offer guilable fans when the fake example is about mixing. China White heroin cooking it in the spoon pumping it in your veins , getting your mind blown and still having to run life's rat race but never being able to get ahead and like most smack heads you Resort to blaming others who also are Junkies for dragging you down.
Cinnamon Girl is a series of references 2 heroin that can come in three varieties China White, ground cinnamon or black tar if you live as a heroin addict for the rest of your life you will be a loser but initially you think that you will be happy for the rest of your life after you take your first needle. 10 silver saxes a bass with a bow is a metaphor for the gorgeous Rush Oh, the drama relaxing and waiting between shows for drugs CS together chasing the moonlight is a metaphor for a guy chasing the rush for the beauty with his cinnamon girl who is smack and pa send the money now, I'm going make it somehow I need another chance you see your baby loves to dance yeah refers to a lost cause musician hitting his parents up for money claiming it's for investing in his future as a musician when in reality it's going to be spent on smack and nothing is ever going to change. everybody's got some story including the one meal and self has the same way Lenin has Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds about his son Julian giving him some goofy picture. Coincidentally John and George just started taking LSD trips for Sergeant Pepper's and said from that point forward they did have some problems relating to Paul and Ringo who hadn't tried yet and I'm not sure if they ever did. What is also interest are the lyrics how about growing so incredibly High, girl with kaleidoscope eyes, rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies all complete psychedelic imagery. It is always the people who have never ever experienced anything always trying to insist that these songs that are the biggest most obvious drug references of all time are innocent tunes about children puppies and girlfriends and that drug addicts are so smug and think they know everything. Don't have to be a drug addict or even a drug user all you have to be is somebody with common sense who may have experimented little in high school and college and I'm not talking about heroin because that's a whole different thing but you can't tell me the guy that wrote the Needle and the Damage Done, was in Crosby Stills Nash & Young and writes all kinds of songs that are completely off the wall couldn't possibly write a song about heroin because only every other band from that era and every era in music has written about heroin or used heroin. Musicians have been been using heroin since turn of the century including Charlie Parker John Coltrane Miles Davis Jimmy Page several guys in to summarize the song Lynyrd Skynyrd Jerry Garcia Lou Reed Keith Richards Sid Vicious Tom Petty Eric Clapton several famous Blues musicians so please give it a rest when references are so obvious as to insult the intelligence when you hear these goofy stories about how that's not what the song is about. Perhaps the song was inspired play something different but the lyrics are what they are and the song is written in English as far as I can tell at a time when everyone including mr. Young was doing bad s***. To summarize, the song might not have been inspired by a big load of heroin but it sure as hell makes no attempt to make the lyrics subtle when referencing heroin in every single verse and chorus. So I apologize to all you guys who think it's like different and to some of you Liars who claim that the song was about you and your relationship with Neil Smith cough cough
I met Neil when I was in high school at Kipling Collegiate in Etobicoke Toronto in late spring, early summer of 1968.
The kids from my high school called me the Cinnamon Girl. I was one of the first flower child kids at my high school. I was living way out in Etobicoke with my parents and we weren't allowed to go to places like a coffee house named The Riverboat. It was there in front of The Riverboat that I met Neil one afternoon.
I only met Neil that once.
Funny thing is if Neil had not been carrying his guitar we never would have met. My best friend had just been bragging to me that her and her sister & another friend now had super cute boyfriends who played in a band. She said they were the singer and guitar & bass player that were playing at El Patio in Yorkville.
I felt so left out.
I told my friend I was going to try and find a drummer to be my boyfriend. Truth is my father was super strict and I wasn't allowed to date. To go to Yorkville I always let on I was going to the movies, or babysitting. All hell would have broken loose if he thought I was with the hippies......
I saw his guitar case first and blurted out "I'm interviewing musicians to be my boyfriend.......are you interested?"
Without hesitation Neil came right over and stood beside me. Oh god. I looked up at him and he was the cutest boy I had ever seen.
He said "What's involved?"
I said you get to hang around with me for a couple of hours. I will ask you questions about dating and relationships and see if you pass. There will be kissing involved...are you a good kisser?"
Neil said "I guess so".
He seemed to be a little shy but amused by the situation. He didn't seem to be in any hurry to go anywhere and so the game started.
When we were together that night, I asked Neil to write a happy song about me and he promised he would. My nickname at school was 'The Cinnamon Girl'. I told him to make it sound Canadian (and even sang him the song from the cartoon ' Pow Wow The Indian Boy' so he's know what I meant). Funny, he's the singer but I was the one doing the singing....He had his guitar with him, he opened the case and showed it to me, but didn't play a note.
Everything in the song is something we did or something we talked about. I had never heard of Neil (or any of his bands) before but the time I spent with him still all these years later feels somehow magical. It was as though I could clearly see his future....and it was as though we had known each other for years, laughing our heads off.I guess the best way to describe it was I found him to be intoxicating.
I think 'Cowgirl in the Sand' is also about me. When we first met I was playing a crazy game with him, and he seemed amused by it. We talked about horseback riding, getting a farm one day, and the fact that I wouldn't tell him my age. I turned the conversation to the ages girls could wed in different provinces yet couldn't drink or vote. We spent the night in a park on the edge of a kid's sandbox talking about our lives, our dreams and the urgency for him to get to California.
I don't know if I'm a muse, psychic or an encouraging Cancerian or a combination of all of these because just as we sat there and talked I knew he would be very successful...just knew it. It was never 'if' it was 'when'.
When I left Neil at the Yorkville subway, I had an overpowering sad feeling that something would happen and i would not see him again for a very long time. It was 6:00AM and we had no paper or pen to exchange contact info.
Who knew I would get so sick?
I got dangerously ill after I met Neil. It lasted 2 weeks, first I was delirious with fever & then Bronchitis. So, I was unable to meet him as planned at The Riverboat.....one of the biggest regrets of my life. My friend saw him there waiting ......she estimated he waited for 2 hours and then was gone...I tried in the early years to contact Neil but letters were returned.
I've always had the feeling that that when the time is right, and the stars are aligned we would somehow meet again.
Neil Young Archives Riverboat Disc Sleeve
So here's the thing.
Surprisingly -- or not so much so -- we get all sorts of Neil tales, that -- quite frankly -- we can't make heads or tails of like this one.
But here's the other thing about this story that makes it a little cosmic. As we were doing that Facebook thing with our "Cinnamon Girl", we just so happened to stumble across the 45 single pictured above and noticed the date -- March 7, 1970.
And as we scanned the Decade box album liner notes, we recall how Neil -- absolutely totally astonishingly -- wrote "Down by the River", "Cinnamon Girl", and "Cowgirl in the Sand" all in a single afternoon -- while sick and delirious with a 103 degree temperature.
Down by the river (boat) he shot his baby (broke up with his young girlfriend) -- a red head (cinnamon girl) -- who was a cowgirl (hippie) in the sand (box at the park).
Both heartbroken and sick at the same time.
sometimes you just never know...
Thanks for sharing the memories cinnamon girl!
So what exactly would it be like to live with a cinnamon girl? Well, this is what we think it would be like...
The beauty of it is you could serenade & declare it to be about a girl with cinnamon hair, skin, eyes, &/or shoes, & say it's just for her. . .
"Who was Cinnamon Girl" the tow truck driver asked. "I'll show you when we get to where we're going" (or something along those lines). The driver towed the vehicle, with Neil in the tow truck, back to the studio where his wife Pegi was recording her album Bracing For Impact.
When they rolled up, Pegi was on the curb waiting for Neil. "And there was Cinnamon Girl, waiting on the curb." I know the song was written before he met her, but that's who he says Cinnamon Girl is. I guess Cinnamon Girl can be whoever he chooses.
"The drummer relaxes and waits between shows for his Cinnamon girl"
"Send me money now..."
"Your baby loves to dance..."
Perhaps a song about a stripper?
Was he aware of the great Latin classic "Piel Canela" ("Cinnamon skin") which was also about a lady? It wouldn't be a surprise if he was.
And the guitar solo rocks, one note or not ... "one note is enough."
It vaguely reminds me of "Wild Thing" by the Troggs.
In my mind Cinnamon girl looks like Buffy Sainte Marie
I often wondered if Neil had an affair with her.
Great songs can take you anywhere
Joys, new york
Pamela Courson, (Jim Morrison's girlfriend)i read that several times when reading about Morrison, The Doors and Pamela's life. Pamela was a California redhead with freckles, she was cute ,very flirtatious (supposively) and had a heroin addiction...which eventually killed her.
Hey, only Neil knows for sure.
The Door's played the Whiskey thoes two nights and the following nights the Buffalo played.
Cinnamon Girl is about the crazy horse srummer's girlfriend and neil's wanting of one like that.
i know this, because i read it in a book about the doors. <3
nor a girl he met on tour
neil young had a very high fever when he wrote this song and just picked up his guitar and wrote a song
he talks about it on an episode of conan o brien
its not a very big secret
and to wes from springfield,
lucy in the sky with diamonds is about LSD
Paul Mcartney has openly said it is
Niel whats up?
Cinnamon Girl recorded 20 March 1969, first session with Crazy Horse.
Neil wrote Cinnamon Girl while suffering from the flu, (at the same time, mid-march '69, he wrote 'Cowgirl in the Sand' & 'Down by the River').