Joachim Neander was born in Bremen, the son of a Latin teacher. His grandfather, a musician, had according to fashion of that time changed the family name from the original "Neumann" ("New man" in English) to the Greek Neander. After the death of his father he could not afford to study at a famous university, thus 1666 - 1670 he studied theology in his hometown, however not with his full heart. Only when he heard a sermon of Theodor Undereyk shortly before the end of his study his believe became serious.
In 1671 he became house teacher in Heidelberg, and in 1674 he became teacher in a Latin school in Düsseldorf, one step before becoming a priest. When living there he liked to go the nearby valley of the Düssel, the nature being his inspiration for his poems. He also held gatherings and services in the valley, on which he gave sermons. The valley was renamed after him in his honor in the early 19th century, and became famous in 1856 when the remains of the Neanderthal humans were found there.
In 1679 Neander became a priest in Bremen, as his popularity at the common people gave him problems with the church administration in Düsseldorf. One year later he died, probably of the plague.