Guests of Gold; The Voices on Neil Young's Biggest Hit

L-R: Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, James Taylor
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Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns; Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images; Jack Kay/Daily Express/Getty Images

Neil Young's career might be far too varied for him to have just one signature song. But "Heart of Gold," the chart-topping single from 1972's Harvest, might come close. Did you know that there are two other big names adding their voices to the track? Who are they, and how did they get there?

READ MORE: Did a Bad Back Give Neil Young His Biggest Hit Song?

Stick around to the end of the track (anywhere but, Spotify, because...well, you know) and you'll hear James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt adding harmonies to "Heart of Gold." The three had been in Nashville to record an episode of Johnny Cash's TV show; Young and Ronstadt both had connections to Elliot Mazer, a producer in the area who'd overseen Ronstadt's Silk Purse. After hitting it off, Young asked Mazer if he'd be able to organize a local recording session; Mazer, owner of Quadrafonic Studios, quickly got to work, inviting just about every musician who was in town or on hand for the Cash taping.

The whirlwind session that ensued on Feb. 6-7, 1971 was the stuff of legend: according to pedal steel player Ben Keith, who arrived late, he quickly got to work on five basic tracks, including "Old Man" and beloved outtake "Bad Fog of Loneliness," before he was even introduced to his fellow players. But Taylor and Ronstadt didn't join until after most of the players had gone home, overdubbing vocals with Young's encouragement.

READ MORE: The Lovely Linda: Our Favorite Linda Ronstadt Tracks

"We were sat on the couch in the control room, but I had to get up on my knees to be on the same level as James because he's so tall," Ronstadt later told Mojo of the session. "Then we sang all night, the highest notes I could sing. It was so hard, but nobody minded. It was dawn when we walked out of the studio."

The end result? Nothing short of the stuff great rock moments are made of.

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