Talented arranger Danny Whitten’s first foray into popular music was with his mid-sixties act Danny & The Memories, although given that this group performed a capella, Whitten’s guitar prowess did not reveal itself until he formed The Rockets, a six-piece rock band that released one album in 1968.
Though the record-buying public ignored his work, Neil Young of the soon-to-split Buffalo Springfield certainly didn’t. Whitten had invited the Canadian guitarist to play with The Rockets at LA’s legendary Whisky A Go-Go – now Young was convinced that Whitten was an ideal guitarist and that this was to be his new band.
The Rockets became Crazy Horse, Whitten jousting with Young on his brilliant 1969 solo outing Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and its follow-up After the Goldrush (1970), especially on the epic "Southern Man"’. Unfortunately, Whitten utilized this huge career upturn to support his increasing use of heroin; Neil Young viewed Crazy Horse as his Rolling Stones and was hugely dismayed to see his lead guitarist f ast becoming dependent on the drug.
Shortly after the release of a debut Crazy Horse album (1971), Whitten was fired from his own band. Sympathetic towards his former guitarist – not to mention afraid that an unoccupied Whitten might invite trouble – Neil Young invited him to tour again in late 1972, on condition that he kick heroin into touch. But with drugs off the menu, the guitarist relied instead on alcohol, which made him barely coherent.
Another chance had gone and Young had little option other than to fly him home to LA to straighten out. Danny Whitten never made it back: using the cash with which he had been paid off, he purchased a wrap of pure heroin, overdosing on the very evening of his dismissal.
Young remembered his friend in the harrowing "Needle and the Damage Done" (1972) and ‘Tonight’s the Night" (1975), while Whitten’s own "I Don’t Want to Talk about It" (1971) became a standard, covered by artists as diverse as Rod Stewart, Nils Lofgren and Everything but the Girl.
The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars - Jeremy Simmonds, 2nd Edition, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated, 2012, page 61
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