November 18, 1972

On this day in 1972, guitarist for the group Crazy Horse, Danny Whitten died from a lethal combination of Valium and alcohol which he was taking to try overcome a heroin addiction.

Whitten participated in the early stages of Neil Young’s solo record After the Gold Rush, Whitten and the rest of Crazy Horse were dismissed halfway through the recording sessions, in part because of Whitten’s heavy drug use. Whitten performs on “Oh, Lonesome Me”, “I Believe in You”, and “When You Dance I Can Really Love”. Young wrote and recorded “The Needle and the Damage Done” during this time, referencing Whitten’s addiction and its role in the destruction of his talent and ultimately his life.

Whitten had been fired from Crazy Horse in 1971, in October of 1972 Young reached out and asked him to play rhythm guitar on the upcoming tour behind Young’s Harvest album.Whitten lagged behind, never in sync and Young again fired Whitten on November 18, 1972. Sending him off with $50 and a plane ticket back to Los Angeles. Whitten died later that evening from an overdose.

Danny Whitten was only 29 years old.

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