My Top 1000 Songs #124: Birds

I have a deeply personal bond with Neil Young's 1970 masterpiece After The Gold Rush, in a way I don't like to share (in contrast to most records, where over-sharing is my modus operandi). And on an album with as transcendent a song as the title track, it's kinda crazy to have another tune at least as gorgeous, if not more so. But "Birds" has always deeply moved me. Like that title track, it's mostly just Neil and his piano. Maybe it's the bittersweet lyrics, a break-up song that feels both tragic and hopeful, that have always haunted me; or Neil's absolutely stellar vocals. Mostly it's those crushing harmonies in the chorus. It's another song that seems to end too soon; before you know it, he's moved on to one of the few harder-rocking Crazy Horse numbers on the LP, and sometimes I just want to hit repeat and give the tune a little more breathing room before those guitars come crashing down.
Here's the gorgeous, recently-unearthed demo version, with Neil on acoustic guitar and Graham Nash providing backing vocals.
Not a standard part of the live repertoire, but here's Neil performing it solo in 2006: