"What Did You do to my Life?" is a breakup song, pure and simple. What makes it distinctly a Neil Young tune are the lilting vocals and haunting, faded chorus, which sounds like a ghost crying out from an attic.
The whole Neil Young
album, his debut, is infused with an eerie sorrow. In Good Times
(August 1969), Greil Marcus described its songs as, "Scary and at times virtually maudlin, creepy, almost a horror show."
In some of the album's songs, such as "The Loner
," "The Last Trip to Tulsa," and "The Old Laughing Lady
," the subtle strangeness is in the lyrics themselves. In "What Did You Do To My Life?," however, as in "If I Could Have Her Tonight
," it's in the vocals and the backing music. In the hands of nearly any other musician on Earth, the song would be just another breakup song, good for forgettable. With Young, it becomes something almost otherworldly and unforgettable.