Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Album: After The Gold Rush (1970)
Charted: 33
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Songfacts®:

  • Neil Young recorded the After The Gold Rush album after the Déjà Vu tour with his band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, a taxing trek that fractured the band. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" was rumored to be about Steven Stills, who alienated his bandmates by referring to them as his "back-up singers" on stage, but Young later admitted it was about one of his other bandmates, Graham Nash, who was heartbroken after breaking up with Joni Mitchell.
  • This was Neil Young's first Top 40 hit as a solo artist. His commercial zenith came with "Heart of Gold," a #1 single from his next album, Harvest.
  • Young's former bandmate Steven Stills is one of many to cover this song, releasing it on his 1984 album Right by You. Other notable covers are by Jackie DeShannon, Elkie Brooks, Rickie Lee Jones, and Florence and The Machine.
  • In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough writes that Young's own sheet music for this song has a sketch of Young in the '70s, the archetypal "forlorn, lonely troubadour with a guitar."

    "With the massive success of his past two albums and the work with CSN," McDonough writes, "Young had created a persona that would prove so indelible some would never know him as anything else."
  • This is the first track on After The Gold Rush. The entire album is acoustic.
  • The English band Saint Etienne had a hit in 1990 with their cover version of this song. It peaked at #39 on the UK Singles Chart and two years later became the group's only entry in the US Billboard Hot 100, when it reached #97. Pete Wiggs of St Etienne recalled to Q magazine July 2012 regarding their version: "The official reaction from the Neil camp was, He has heard it. Not exactly ringing praise." He added: "(BBC Radio 1 DJ) Nicky Campbell once smashed our version live on air on his radio show. He was so outraged by what we'd done."
  • Young performed this on the 1970 Déjà Vu tour with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young months before it was released. On this tour, it was common for each member to perform a solo song - they would sometimes perform each other's songs.
  • A version by Everlast was used in the 1999 Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy.

Comments: 12

  • David from Huntington Beach, CaThis is mostly an acoustic album. (I refer to Paul) It has Southern Man and When You Dance I can really Love, but still it is pretty much an acosutic album.
  • David from Huntington Beach, CaOne of those songs that utilizes Neil's heart breaking voice to it's fullest...
  • Joni from New York, NyA very touching song. It nearly made me cry. It's weird to like this kind of music and hear people talking about the people involved. I was named for Joni Mitchell.
  • Guilliermo from New York, NyWHEN YOU DANCE I CAN REALLY LOVE is not an acoustic song either
  • Frank from Westminster, ScEvery time I hear his vocals on this song, I wonder: Is it possible that Neil Young and Olive Oyl were separated at birth?
  • David from , CaI always thought he was singing about himself. It's funny that even though this is lyrically one of his more straightforward songs it is still ambiguous. If anyone has quotes from or a link to the interview where Neil discusses this song I'd like to read it.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI wonder why it was about Graham Nash? Was it when Joni Mitchell dumped him?
  • Robert from Trumbull, CtGene Pitney had a hit with a different song with this title in the early 60's
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScGood point Paul. "Southern Man" is on this album.
  • Paul from Toledo, OhThe entire album AFTER THE GOLDRUSH is not acoustic. Why do I keep hearing this? One of Young's best electric song's SOUTHERN MAN was released on this album.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesUK indie faves St. Etienne did a cover of this song in 1990 - not as good as the original, though
  • Jason from Milton, CanadaThis song is actually the third song on the After the Goldrush.
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