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Essays

Neil Young: Greatest Canadian Hero

Neil Young They wore baseball caps, bandanas and cowboy hats. They sported Maple Leaf badges and flags. They came in from the suburbs, from Ottawa, from Indiana. On a gloriously sunny day in downtown Toronto, 1623 guitarists packed Yonge/Dundas Square with one common goal – to strum out Neil Young’s three-chord classic ‘Helpless’ together.

The collective sound was like the world’s largest campfire surrounded by a buzzing swarm of insects. The guitars weren’t in tune with one another, but then again, technical perfection was never Young’s bag. Perhaps that’s why voters on the website of the Luminato Festival (which organized the strum-along) picked ‘Helpless’ over songs by Leonard Cohen, Bryan Adams, and others. Or maybe it was because the winning song would be dubbed "The Great Canadian Tune" and Neil Young is widely perceived to be the country’s most enduring musical icon.

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