“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done”… This is one of the saddest stories…

Written by on May 11, 2018


“I’ve seen the needle and the damage done”…

This is one of the saddest stories in the history of Rock and Roll.

If he was still with us, Daniel Ray Whitten would have turned 75 years old today. Better know as Danny Whitten, he was a musician and songwriter best known for his work with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and for the song “I Don’t Want To Talk About It”, a hit for Rita Coolidge, Rod Stewart and Everything but the Girl.

Danny formed a band with brothers George and Leon Whitsell, as well as violinist Bobby Notkoff calling themselves The Rockets. They signed with independent label White Whale Records, working with producer Barry Goldberg for the group’s self-titled album in mid-1968. The album sold poorly.

Songwriter Neil Young, fresh from departing the Buffalo Springfield, with one album of his own under his belt, began jamming with the Rockets and expressed interest in recording with Whitten, Molina and Talbot. The trio agreed, so long as they were allowed to simultaneously continue on with The Rockets: Young acquiesced initially, but imposed a rehearsal schedule that made that an impossibility. At first dubbed “War Babies” by Young, they soon became known as Crazy Horse.

Recording sessions led to Young’s second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, credited as Neil Young with Crazy Horse, with Whitten on second guitar and vocals. Although his role was that of support, Whitten sang the album’s opening track “Cinnamon Girl” along with Young, and Whitten and Young played guitar on “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” As did so many other rock musicians in the late 1960s, Whitten began using heroin and quickly became addicted. Although he participated in the early stages of Young’s next solo effort, After the Gold Rush, Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were dismissed about halfway through the recording sessions, in part because of Whitten’s heavy drug use. Whitten performs on “Oh, Lonesome Me”, “I Believe in You”, and “When You Dance I Can Really Love”. Young wrote and recorded “The Needle and the Damage Done” during this time, with direct references to Whitten’s addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent.

Whitten continued to drift, his personal life ruled almost totally by drugs. He was kicked out of Crazy Horse by Talbot and Molina, who used replacements on the band’s two albums of 1972. In October of that year, after receiving a call from Young to play rhythm guitar on the upcoming tour behind Young’s Harvest album, Whitten showed up for rehearsals at Young’s home outside San Francisco. While the rest of the group hammered out arrangements, Whitten lagged behind, figuring out the rhythm parts, though never in sync with the rest of the group. Young, who had more at stake after the success of Harvest, fired Danny from the band on November 18, 1972. Young gave Whitten $50 and a plane ticket back to Los Angeles. Later that night Whitten died from a fatal combination of Valium, which he was taking for severe knee arthritis, and alcohol, which he was using to try to get over his heroin addiction. He was only 29 years old.

The picture is of Danny on stage with Neil Young.

Happy Birthday Danny. RIP




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