|B-side "Sugar Mountain"|
Format 45 rpm Record
|Released April 20, 1970|
Genre Hard rock
|Recorded March 20, 1969 at Wally Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA|
"Cinnamon Girl" is a song by Neil Young. It debuted on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which was also Young's first album with backing band Crazy Horse. Released as a single the following year, it reached #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
Like two other songs from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down by the River", Young wrote "Cinnamon Girl" while he was suffering from the flu with a high fever at his home in Topanga, California.
This song displays the very prominent role played by Danny Whitten in the sound of Young's early recordings. The vocals are a duet, with Whitten singing the high harmony against Young's low harmony. (The 45 rpm single mix of the song, in addition to being in mono and cutting off the guitar outro, features Whitten's vocal more prominently than the album version.) Young performed the song on his then-recently acquired Gibson Les Paul, "Old Black".
The song was written in Double drop D tuning (DADGBD). This tuning is used in several of his most famous songs, such as "The Loner", "The Old Laughing Lady", "When You Dance I Can Really Love", "Ohio", and "Cortez the Killer". The music features a prominent descending bass guitar line. The song's "one note guitar solo", consisting largely of a repeating, sharply played jangling D note, has often been singled out for praise.
The lyrics have the singer daydreaming for a girl to love, singing that he waits "between shows" for his lover. Young has claimed that he wrote the song "for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me through Phil Ochs' eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife." The city girl playing finger cymbals is a reference to folk singer Jean Ray. Music critic Johnny Rogan described the lyrics as "exotic and allusive without really saying anything at all." Critic Toby Creswell describes the lyrics as "cryptic love lyrics" noting that they are sung "over the crunching power of Crazy Horse." Critic John Mendelsohn felt the song conveyed a message of "desperation begetting brutal vindictiveness," hinted at by the "almost impenetrably subjective words" but carried strongly by the sound of Crazy Horse's "heavy, sinister accompaniment." Introducing the song at a performance associated with Writer's Week at Whittier College (California) in April, 2015, Los Lobos co-founder Louie Perez said that when he first heard "Cinnamon Girl", he was sure it was about a Mexican girl.
In an interview with Q magazine, Beck Hansen named the "Cinnamon Girl" riff as his all-time favourite, equal with Black Sabbath's "Supernaut".
"Cinnamon Girl" has been covered by many artists: