"The Needle and the Damage Done" is a song by Neil Young that chronicles the descent of musicians he knew into heroin addiction. It was written about the heroin use of his Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten (before Whitten died of an overdose), and previews the theme of "Tonight's the Night", a song that addresses the heroin overdose and death of Bruce Berry, a roadie for Young and his band Crazy Horse.
"The Needle and the Damage Done" first appeared on the Harvest album in 1972. The song was recorded live rather than in the studio. It appears 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."
A recording of the song from 1971 was part of 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."
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