The Meaning of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”

Neil Young live in 1993. Photo by Ebet Roberts.

Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is a peaceful masterpiece about dancing with a lover under the light of a full moon. Coming later in his career, “Harvest Moon” was released in 1992 as the first single from his album of the same name.

The lyrics to “Harvest Moon” call upon a relaxing late summer evening, with Neil’s quietly-sung vocals setting the scene over a calming musical backdrop (no crunchy Old Black tones here). We picture a bright orange moon hung high in the sky, with a comfortable breeze blowing in our hair as we twist and turn with this special lover.

“Because I’m still in love with you, I want to see you dance again,” Young sings, “Because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon.”

This image of the harvest moon brings with it the idea of changing seasons, and the passing of time. Neil indulges in this image throughout the song, even using the moon as a metaphor for getting older: “But now it’s gettin’ late, and the moon is climbin’ high.”

It is assumed that Neil Young wrote “Harvest Moon” about his then-wife, Pegi, whom he was married to from 1978 to 2014. They had been together a long time as of the song’s release in 1992, and one can picture Neil reminiscing on the time passed between them, and still being in love.

Even if Pegi wasn’t Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” after all, “Harvest Moon” is a song for lovers everywhere to enjoy together for all time. The tender lyrics coupled with the slow, swaying melody makes this a timeless love song, and one of Neil Young’s finest moments (and there are many).

“Harvest Moon” has also been covered by several artists, many of whom do a great job with the tune. Electronic artist Poolside has an extremely popular version of the song that sounds entirely different from the original, but still maintains that peaceful aura. My personal favorite, however, is the cover from the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Sunflower Bean, who add a female vocalist and a deepened sense of dreaminess to their version of the track.

Watch the music video for Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” below.

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