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"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 theflu 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 highharmony against Young's low harmony. 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 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."
"Cinnamon Girl" has been covered by many artists:
- The Gentrys on their eponymous album for Sun Records (1970). Their version reached #52 on the Billboard chart, slightly outperforming Young's original. The Gentrys' version actually charted before Neil Young's did.
- Hole used the song's main riff in the track "Starbelly", on their 1991 debut album Pretty on the Inside.
- Type O Negative on their 1996 album October Rust.
- John Entwistle of The Who recorded a version of the song as an outtake for his 1971 solo album Smash Your Head Against the Wall.
- The Smashing Pumpkins released a version on the 2012 reissue of Pisces Iscariot.
- Radiohead has performed a cover version at their live shows (Yokohama Arena, Santa Barbara Bowl - 2001).
- Wilco and members of My Morning Jacket have performed the song at various stops on the 2013 Americanarama Music Festival tour.
- Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs on their album, Under the Covers, Vol. 1 (2006)
- Danish band Kashmir performed a cover version on their live CD/DVD The Aftermath.
- Phish has covered the song a total of three times, once at Gallagher's in Vermont on 3/1/1989, and twice during their 1997 tours. 
- The Dream Syndicate included a version on their 1986 album Out of the Grey.