Monday, April 20, 1970

Neil Young “Cinnamon Girl” released

Cinnamon Girl

Neil Young

Writer(s): Neil Young (see lyrics here)

Released: April 20, 1970

First Charted: June 19, 1970

Peak: 55 US, 56 CB, 36 GR, 52 HR, 1 CL, 25 CN, 34 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 7.5 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

After Neil Young’s departure from Buffalo Springfield, he released his first solo album in 1968. The self-titled debut failed to dent the charts, but the follow-up, 1969’s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, logged 98 weeks on the Billboard album chart, peaking at #34 and reaching platinum status. The album ranks as one of the top 1000 albums of all time.

Lead single “Down by the River” failed to chart, but the second single – “Cinnamon Girl” – was a top 40 hit in Canada and Australia and got to #55 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is sung as a duet between Young singing the low harmony and Danny Whitten singing the high harmony. WK Whitten was a songwriter and guitarist in Young’s backing band, Crazy Horse. Beck called the guitar riff on “Cinnamon Girl” his all-time favorite. WK The British magazine New Musical Express (NME) ranked it one of the 50 greatest guitar riffs of all time. WK

Some have speculated that the song refers to Jim Morrison’s common-law wife, Pamela Courson, who had reddish-brown hair. WK Young has denied that, never confirming who the cinnamon girl is, SF although there is a reference in the song to ‘60s folk singer Jean Ray via the bit about finger cymbals. SF Young has also confirmed he had a crush on her. SF

Lyrically, the song is about the singer daydreaming about having someone to love. Critic Johnny Rogan said the lyrics are “exotic and elusive without really saying anything at all.” WK However, critic John Mendelsohn sees it as a message of “desperation begetting brutal vindictiveness.” WK

The song has been recorded and/or performed by Big Head Todd & the Monsters, the Dream Syndicate, John Entwistle, the Gentrys (#52, 1970), Hole, Phish, the Pretty Reckless, Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Type O Negative, and Wilco.


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First posted 3/9/2023; last updated 3/20/2023.

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