Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain” Lyrics Meaning

The best way of describing this song is by first noting that the titular “Sugar Mountain” is obviously a symbolic location. And what it symbolizes and idealizes is youth.  So when the singer promotes “oh, to live on Sugar Mountain”, that’s another way of saying that many of us, if we could, would stay young forever.

And Neil takes a two-pronged approach to getting this point across. First, he depicts “Sugar Mountain” as sort of this never-ending fair. It’s a place where you can not only chill with your friends but also enjoy sweets with no beef from your parents. And there even exists the opportunity to fall in love.

Also, the vocalist notes how being grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That is to say, as implied by the fourth verse, when we’re in our youth we tend to fantasize about one day being out on our own. But the reality of the situation is that being an independent adult is a lot more hardcore than it may appear beforehand.

In Conclusion

All in all, even though at the time he wrote this song Neil may have still been a teenager himself, obviously he had a relatively firm grip on the concept of being an adult. Indeed in reading about his childhood, it appears Neil first started venturing out on his own in his early teens. And he penned this tune at the time he was in the midst of his own transition to permanent adulthood. 

And with that in mind let it also be known that according to one of Young’s colleagues and homeys, Joni Mitchell, what actually prompted him to write this piece was the fact that, upon officially becoming a man, Neil could no longer visit an under-21 club that he favored. That is not to say that the said club would be “Sugar Mountain” itself. But being barred from the venue, according to Mitchell, would have been one of the factors that made the singer realize that some of the joys of childhood simply cannot be innocently replicated as we get older.

Neil Young, "Sugar Mountain" Lyrics

Facts about “Sugar Mountain”

The first release of this track apparently dates back to 21 February 1969. At that time, it was released through Reprise Records as the B-side to Neil Young’s debut single, “The Loner”. However, “Sugar Mountain” was not featured on an album until 1977’s “Decade”, i.e. Neil Young’s first compilation project. 

Also, a live rendering of the tune is featured on the singer’s album “Sugar Mountain – Live at the Canterbury House” 1968, which actually didn’t come out until 2008. There is also another live performance of this song found on Young’s 2009 album, “Live at the Riverboat” 1969, which was taped in the titular year in Toronto. Therefore, the most recent recording of “Sugar Mountain” that actually made it onto a Neil Young album would apparently be the one featured on his 1979 undertaking “Live Rust”, which was actually recorded in 1978.

Neil Young

Neil Young is a singer from Canada who has been in the game since the early-1960s. Prior to the aforementioned “Decade”, he already had nine studio albums under his belt. This includes 1972’s “Harvest”. FYI, “Harvest” remains the only project Young has ever put out which topped the Billboard 200.

Did Neil Young write “Sugar Mountain”?

Neil Young reportedly wrote this piece in 1964 in Ontario on his 19th birthday. He did so while touring with a band he led at the time known as The Squires. However, Joni Mitchell once stated, as noted earlier, that Young had “newly turned 21” when he penned “Sugar Mountain”.

Neil is the sole writer of “Sugar Mountain”. And the implication would be that he also had a hand in producing all of the aforementioned versions.

Sugar Mountain

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