Friday Music: Four Strong Winds, Neil Young, and Ian Tyson


My introduction to singer and guitar player Ian Tyson was via Neil Young’s cover of “Four Strong Winds” back in 1979 on his “Comes a Time” album.

This is Neil Young at his best, showing his roots growing up as a rural Canadian kid influenced by pure cowboy culture in the form of a simple but powerful and poignant song about wanting to try just one more time to rekindle a dying love, but resigning yourself to moving on, because you’ve been “over this a hundred times or more”.

Pay special attention to the chorus, which is wonderful.



The chorus:

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All those things that don't change
Come what may
If the good times are all gone
Then I'm bound for movin' on
I'll look for you if I'm ever back this way

Neil’s version is a keeper, but make no mistake, this is an Ian Tyson song. He performed together as a duo with his then-wife Sylvia for quite a few years in the 60s, and this was a hit for them in 1963, but that version is very “folky” and not really my style; I like his solo work much better. He has released many many albums as a solo artist, and is quite good on his own.

This version of “Four Strong Winds” (of several) seems best to me.



As I learned from listening to Ian’s catalog on Spotify, cowboy music is a whole vibe: simple, tuneful, funny story songs, with no pretense at all. 

I love everything about all of that.

Here’s a funny and sweet story song that is great fun and will stick in your head for hours after, “Navajo Rug”.


His catalog is full of gems like this:  “The Coyote and The Cowboy”, “Eighteen Inches of Rain”, “Magpie”, “Jaquima to Freno”, and many more. If you like any of his music you will like nearly all of it. 


The Coyote and The Cowboy




Eighteen Inches of Rain



Here’s Ian with his ex-partner Sylvia in a reunion for Canadian TV from 1986 doing “Four Strong Winds”.