Neil Young

A Man Needs a Maid

Composed by Neil Young

Song Review by

Neil Young's "A Man Needs a Maid" is an impressionistic musing by a man who is contemplating the start of a new romantic relationship. He is also encountering greater difficulties of an unspecified, but life-changing sort, beginning by noting, "My life is changing in so many ways/I don't know who to trust anymore." In such a context, he wonders whether instead of making the commitment necessary to a relationship, he ought to just hire a housekeeper instead. In this sense, he employs two different meanings for the word "maid" in the title. That got him in some trouble with feminists when the song was introduced on his popular Harvest album in 1972, since he seemed to be implying that the job of a female romantic companion was to cook for and pick up after him. And that implication is inescapable, though in a larger sense the song is about a man's struggle between his desire for companionship and his fear of being hurt. His account of falling in love with the actress in a movie seems to be directly autobiographical. Young was then involved with Carrie Snodgrass, star of the 1970 film Diary of a Mad Housewife. Just as Young was criticized for the way he expressed this idea, he was also criticized for the musical arrangement he used. In concert, he performed the song alone at a piano, but on record he brought in the London Symphony Orchestra for big orchestral effects that many found overly elaborate. Young defended himself against the criticisms when he included "A Man Needs a Maid" on his 1977 Decade compilation, humorously noting that "Robin Hood loved a maid long before women's liberation" and saying that Bob Dylan had told him he liked the arrangement.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Harvest 1972 Reprise 4:05
No Image 1973 Warner Bros. 0:00
Decade 1977 Reprise / Warner Bros.
No Image 1991 Silver Shadow 4:44
There's a World 2000 3:34