1. Neil Young
2. Kenny Omega / Britney Kornel (tie)
Neil Young may not have been born in Winnipeg, but he forged his musical identity here. As a student at Kelvin High School, Young formed his first band, The Squires, during the early 1960s before moving to what is now Thunder Bay and eventually Toronto to play in The Mynah Birds with Rick James in 1966.
His entire tenure in Winnipeg lasted only six years, but those six years were enough for the readers of The Uniter to choose Young as their favourite Winnipegger abroad.
Young’s idiosyncratic output is a good fit for Winnipeg. Throughout his career, while playing in various groups, he has dabbled in surf-rock with The Squires, R&B with The Mynah Birds and folk-rock with both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
As a solo artist, he has released records of folk, folk-rock, proto-grunge, rockabilly, country and synth rock. His creative restlessness is mirrored in the isolated restlessness of a city of 700,000 people in the middle of the Canadian Prairies.
Winnipeggers are quick to point out when someone successful has come from Winnipeg. We are especially proud of people like Young who have achieved massive commercial and artistic success on their own terms.
Young’s reputation as a stubborn curmudgeon is born of his determination to be his authentic self, whether he’s being sued by Geffen Records for making “non-commercial” music or refusing to release certain albums on CD for decades, because he believed the math used in creating digital audio was incorrect. He believes in his art and his vision for how it should be presented.
We can see the best and worst of ourselves as Winnipeggers reflected in Young. His music touches our lives and gives us the vocabulary to understand our own restlessness and stubbornness. His authenticity and commitment to his principles are an ideal for which we can strive, and that is why he’s our favourite Winnipegger abroad.
Not bad for a six-year stay.
Published in Volume 76, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 2, 2021)