“I am not a preacher, but drugs killed a lot of great men.”
– Neil Young (liner notes Decade)
Danny Whitten died 18 November 1972, 40 years ago
Daniel Ray Whitten (May 8, 1943 – November 18, 1972) was an American musician and songwriter best known for his work with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and for the song “I Don’t Want To Talk About It“, a hit for Rita Coolidge, Rod Stewart and Everything but the Girl.
Songwriter Neil Young, fresh from departing the Buffalo Springfield, with one album of his own under his belt, began jamming with the Rockets and expressed interest in recording with Whitten, Molina and Talbot. The trio agreed, so long as they were allowed to simultaneously continue on with The Rockets: Young acquiesced initially, but imposed a rehearsal schedule that made that an impossibility. At first dubbed “War Babies” by Young, they soon became known as Crazy Horse.
Nils Lofgren – Beggar’s Day (Eulogy for Danny Whitten):
Recording sessions led to Young’s second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, credited as Neil Young with Crazy Horse, with Whitten on second guitar and vocals. Although his role was that of support, Whitten sang the album’s opening track “Cinnamon Girl” along with Young, and Whitten and Young played guitar on “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” These tracks would influence the grunge movement of the 1990s, and all three songs would be counted among Young’s most memorable work, continuing to hold a place in his performance repertoire to this day.
As did so many other rock musicians in the late 1960s, Whitten began using heroin and quickly became addicted. Although he participated in the early stages of Young’s next solo effort, After the Gold Rush, Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were dismissed about halfway through the recording sessions, in part because of Whitten’s heavy drug use. Whitten performs on “Oh, Lonesome Me”, “I Believe in You”, and “When You Dance I Can Really Love”. Young wrote and recorded “The Needle and the Damage Done” during this time, with direct references to Whitten’s addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent.