|Song by Neil Young from the album Rust Never Sleeps|
|Released||July 2, 1979|
|Rust Never Sleeps track listing|
"Powderfinger" is a song written by Neil Young, first released on his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. It subsequently appeared on several of Young's live recordings, and has been covered by several bands, including Cowboy Junkies, Beat Farmers, Rusted Root, and Jazz Mandolin Project. The Australian rock band Powderfinger took their name from this song.
Lyrics and music 
"Powderfinger" is the first song of the second, electric, side of Rust Never Sleeps. Following the mellower acoustic side 1, Allmusic critic Jason Ankeny describes the song as "a sudden, almost blindsiding metamorphosis, which is entirely the point -- it's the shot you never saw coming." The lyrics are narrated posthumously by a young man in a contemporary setting. A "white boat with a red beacon" suggests the possibility of police or law enforcement. The beacon suggests electric light. The young man attempting to protect his family by himself against a threatening gunboat. He finds himself paralyzed with indecision and ultimately the character gets killed in the action. Author Johnny Rogan describes the last verse as the character's "moving epitaph":
- Just think of me as one you never figured
- Would fade away so young
- With so much left undone
- Remember me to my love; I know I'll miss her
The lines about fading away so young echo the line "it's better to burn out than to fade away," which Young sings on the opening song of Rust Never Sleeps, "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)." Ankeny feels that the song's first person narrative "evokes traditional folk storytelling" but the music is "incendiary rock & roll," and praises the "mythical proportions" Young's guitar solos as the story approaches its "harrowing" conclusion. Allmusic critic William Ruhlmann described the song as "remarkable," considering it the best of the great songs on Rust Never Sleeps. Rogan describes it as one of "Young's great narrative songs" and "almost cinematic in execution." Rogan also praises Crazy Horse's backing as "ideal" and permitting Young to "invest the song with epic significance." Rolling Stone Magazine critic Paul Nelson compared the violence in the song to the helicopter scene with Robert Duvall in the movie Apocalypse Now in that it is "both appalling and appealing — to us and to its narrator — until it's too late." Nelson also suggests that although it opens the Crazy Horse rock 'n' roll side of the Rust Never Sleeps, it is the album's "purest folk narrative." On Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list they state that on "Powderfinger" "Young's guitar hits the sky like never before." Critic Dave Marsh claimed that "Young wrote as brilliant a statement of American nihilism and despair as any rock writer has created."
Young recorded a solo acoustic version of "Powderfinger" in September 1975 (never officially released), and later sent the tape to his friend Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd who were to use the song on their next album. However, Van Zant died in a plane crash in October 1977, and Lynyrd Skynyrd never recorded the song. The song was officially released as an electric version with the band Crazy Horse on Young's 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps.
Cover versions 
- Beat Farmers, on the Glad 'N' Greasy EP (Rhino, 1985). The track also appeared on the Van Go LP (Mike Curb Records, 1986). The track was re-released on the extended edition of Tales of the New West (Rhino, 2004)
- Cowboy Junkies, on The Caution Horses (RCA, 1990). The track also appears on two compilations: Studio: Selected Studio Recordings 1986-1995 (RCA, 1996) and Cowboy Junkies: The Platinum and Gold Collection (RCA, 2003)
- Rusted Root, on Live (Touchy Pegg, 2004)
- Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan, on Rock and Roll Station (SCR/Schoolhouse Records, 2000)
- Acoustic Syndicate on Live from the Neighborhood (2002)
- Jeffrey Foucault & Mark Erelli on Seven Curses (2010)
- Yung Wu (Offshoot of The Feelies) on "Shore Leave" 1986
- Slobberbone has covered this song in numerous live performances.
- Fuzee cover version on upcoming album (2012)
- Astrid Young (Neil's sister) has covered this song (acoustic version).
- Ankeny, J. "Powderfinger". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
- Rogan, J. (1996). The Complete Guide to the Music of Neil Young. Omnibus Press. p. 85. ISBN 0711953996.
- Downing, D. (1995). A Dreamer of Pictures: Neil Young, the Man and His Music. Da Capo. p. 133. ISBN 9780306806117.
- Williamson, N. (2002). Journey Through the Past: The Stories Behind the Classic Songs of Neil Young. Hal Leonard. p. 79. ISBN 9780879307417.
- Ruhlmann, W. "Rust Never Sleeps". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-07-30.
- Nelson, P. (October 18, 1979). "Rust Never Sleeps". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: #351 Neil Young and Crazy Horse, 'Rust Never Sleeps'". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved 2012-07-31.
- Marsh, D. (1983). Marsh, D. & Swenson, J., ed. The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (2nd ed.). Rolling Stone Press. p. 565. ISBN 0394721071.
- Simmons, Sylvie (2002), Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass, Canongate, p. 135.