February 1, 1972
Royce Hall, UCLA, 30 January 1971
"The Needle and the Damage Done" is a song by Neil Young that describes the destruction caused by the heroin addiction of musicians he knew. Though not specifically about him, the song was inspired by the heroin addiction of his friend and Crazy Horse bandmate Danny Whitten. It previews the theme of the Tonight's the Night album that reflects Young's grief over the heroin overdose and death of both Whitten and Bruce Berry, a roadie for Young and Crazy Horse.
"The Needle and the Damage Done" first appeared on the Harvest album in 1972. Rather than rerecording it, he selected a live version from January 1971 that had him singing and playing acoustic guitar. It appeared on the compilation albums Decade and Greatest Hits. On the handwritten liner notes included in Decade, Young had this to say about the song: "I am not a preacher, but drugs killed a lot of great men."
It appeared on the 2007 album Live at Massey Hall 1971. The album captured Young's introduction of his song thus:
Ever since I left Canada, about five years ago or so... and moved down south... found out a lot of things that I didn't know when I left. Some of 'em are good, and some of 'em are bad. Got to see a lot of great musicians before they happened... before they became famous... y'know, when they were just gigging. Five and six sets a night... things like that. And I got to see a lot of, um, great musicians who nobody ever got to see. For one reason or another. But... strangely enough, the real good ones... that you never got to see was... 'cause of, ahhm, heroin. An' that started happening over an' over. Then it happened to someone that everyone knew about. So I just wrote a little song.
Bands that have covered this song on studio albums include Our Lady Peace, Green River, Duran Duran, Lior, Simple Minds, and The Pretenders; Punk rock band The Bronx recorded a cover which can be found as a b-side on the "False Alarm" single.
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has covered it while on tour in 1993 for the temporary departure of John Frusciante from their band.
Tori Amos covered the song during her "Strange Little Tour" in 2001.
Cross Canadian Ragweed's Cody Canada performed the song acoustically on their 2006 release Back to Tulsa - Live and Loud at Cain's Ballroom.
Alternative metal band Seether covered it during a performance on Last Call with Carson Daly.
Ashley Cleveland covers this song on her 2002 album Second Skin.
Irish singer Andrea Corr covered it during her AOL Sessions on July 19, 2007 in support of her solo album Ten Feet High.
English folk singer Laura Marling covered it twice on her August 2008 tour of Australia, and on several dates during her 2010 tour of England, Marling has since recorded the cover on a limited edition 7".
English singer Pete Doherty covered it during a gig at the French festival Eurockéennes de Belfort in 2009 and at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in July 2009 as well as at the Belgian festival Lokerse Feesten in August 2009.
Pearl Jam's lead singer Eddie Vedder covered the song at a Pearl Jam show on August 23, 2009, at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. He dedicated it to Michael Jackson, to whom he grew up listening. Pearl Jam also covered the song during their Backspacer tour.
Dave Matthews covered the song frequently in his live performances during 2010, including a tribute concert for Young, when he was honored as the MusiCares Person of the Year (also in 2010).
Jewel covered the song on The Howard Stern Show on May 24, 2010.
Marcy Playground covered the song on their 2012 album, Lunch, Recess & Detention.
Grindcore band Cloud Rat covered the song on their 2013 Moksha.
Gregg Allman and Warren Haynes covered the song the first night of the 2013 Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, as well as in the second night of same year's Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Jake Bugg recorded an acoustic cover of the song on the late 2013.