Young's work is characterized by deeply personal lyrics, distinctive guitar work, and signature tenor singing voice. Although he accompanies himself on several different instruments—including piano and harmonica, his clawhammer acoustic guitar style and often idiosyncratic electric guitar soloing are the linchpins of a sometimes ragged, sometimes polished sound. Although Young has experimented widely with differing music styles, including swing, jazz, rockabilly, blues, and electronic music throughout a varied career, his best known work usually falls into either of two distinct styles: acoustic folk/country ("Heart of Gold", "Harvest Moon" and "Old Man") and electric-charged hard rock (like "Cinnamon Girl", "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)"). In recent years, Young has adopted elements from newer styles like industrial, alternative country and grunge. Young's profound influence on the latter caused some to dub him "the Godfather of Grunge".
Young has directed (or co-directed) a number of films using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey, including Journey Through the Past (1973), Rust Never Sleeps (1979), Human Highway (1982), Greendale (2003), and CSNY Déjà Vu (2008). He is currently working on a documentary about electric car technology, tentatively titled Linc/Volt. The project involves a 1959 Lincoln Continental converted to hybrid technology, which Young plans to drive to Washington, DC as an example to lawmakers there.
He is also an outspoken advocate for environmental issues and small farmers, having co-founded in 1985 the benefit concert Farm Aid, and in 1986 helped found The Bridge School, and its annual supporting Bridge School Benefit concerts, together with his wife Pegi (in this, Young's involvement stems at least partially from the fact that both of his sons have cerebral palsy and his daughter, like Young himself, has epilepsy).
Although Young has lived in northern California since the 1970s and sings as frequently about U.S. themes and subjects as he does about his native country, he retains Canadian citizenship, which he has never wanted to relinquish.
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