Song of the Day: Old Man by Neil Young

Old Man on a Bench by mendigo-amigo

“Old Man” is a song written and performed by Neil Young on his 1972 album Harvest.

Lyrics:

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there’s so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don’t get lost.
Like a coin that won’t get tossed
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.
Doesn’t mean that much to me
To mean that much to you.

I’ve been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.
But I’m all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that’s true.

Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I’m a lot like you were.

……

The song was written for the caretaker of the Northern California Broken Arrow Ranch, which Young purchased for $350,000 in 1970. The song compares a young man’s life to an old man’s and shows that the young man has, to some extent, the same needs as the old one. James Taylor played six-string banjo (tuned like a guitar) and sang on the song, and Linda Ronstadt also contributed vocals. In the movie Heart of Gold, Young introduces the song as follows:

“About that time when I wrote (“Heart of Gold”), and I was touring, I had also — just, you know, being a rich hippie for the first time — I had purchased a ranch, and I still live there today. And there was a couple living on it that were the caretakers, an old gentleman named Louis Avila and his wife Clara. And there was this old blue Jeep there, and Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep. He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, “Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?” And I said, “Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky.” And he said, “Well, that’s the darndest thing I ever heard.” And I wrote this song for him.”

He tells a similar story when introducing the song at a February 23, 1971 performance broadcast by the BBC (in which he says that he purchased the ranch from “two lawyers”).

  • The song can be heard in the films Dogtown and Z-BoysWonder BoysRunning on EmptyDue Date and Lords of Dogtown.
  • It can also be heard in Brian Foster’s part of the BMX Video “FitLife” made by Fit Bike Co.
  • During actor Heath Ledger’s Hollywood memorial service, “Old Man” was chosen to be played with a slideshow of pictures from Ledger’s life.
  • At former St. Louis Blues Brett Hull’s jersey retirement ceremony, this song was played as his jersey rose to the rafters.
  • The live version of the song from “Live from Massey Hall 1971” album was used briefly in the 2010 film Due Date.
  • In the early summer 2011, Redlight King sampled “Old Man” on the album “Something For The Pain.” It was the first time Young had sanctioned a sample of this song.

Covers

  • Bob Dylan regularly covered this song at a number of concerts on his 2002 tour, including one at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
  • In 1996 the song was covered by Metal band Cyclone Tracy on their album “One Eyed.”
  • The Finnish band, HIM has a rare track featuring the band covering the song, despite relatively poor quality.
  • The song was covered by American R&B/Soul singer N’Dea Davenport on her 1998 debut album, N’Dea Davenport.
  • In 2004 the song was covered by Canadian folk trio The Wailin’ Jennys for their debut full length album, 40 Days.
  • In 2004 the song was covered by Pop trio Wilson Phillips for their covers album, California.
  • In 2005, Lizz Wright covered it on her live album Dreaming Wide Awake, recorded at Allaire, Shokan, New York the year before.
  • In 2007, Grand National covered the song on their album A Drink and a Quick Decision as a live bonus track.
  • In 2008, Liam Finn (Neil Finn’s son) & EJ Barnes (Jimmy Barnes’s daughter) covered the song on the TV show RocKwiz.
  • In 2009, German Metal band Motorjesus covered the song on their 100.000 Volt Survivor EP. It was also released as a bonus track on their album Wheels Of Purgatory.
  • In 2010, Donna Loren covered the song on her album Love It Away.
  • In 2010, James McCartney (Paul McCartney’s son) covered the song on his EP Available Light. This version was featured in the second episode of season five of the TV seriesCalifornication.
  • In 2011, Laughon Bryant & The Midnite Riders covered the song on their “Down That Road” album.
  • In March 2011, Dallas Green, of City and Colour and Alexisonfire, covered the song at The 2011 Juno Awards.
  • In 2011, post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd covered it on their covers album Re:(disc)overed.
  • In 2013, The Voice Australia contestant Danny Ross covered it in the Live Finals 2.

Neil Young

Birth name Neil Percival Young
Also known as Bernard Shakey, Phil Perspective, Shakey Deal, Clyde Coil, Ol’ Neil, Joe Canuck, Joe Yankee, Marc Lynch, Pinecone Young
Born November 12, 1945 (age 68)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Origin Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Genres Rock, folk rock, country rock,experimental rock, hard rock
Occupations Musician, singer-songwriter,producer, director, screenwriter,activist, humanitarian
Instruments Guitar, vocals, harmonica, piano,organ, banjo, ukulele
Years active 1960–present
Labels Warner Bros., Reprise, Motown,Atco, Atlantic, Geffen
Associated acts The Squires, The Mynah Birds,Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Crazy Horse, The Stray Gators, The Stills-Young Band, The Ducks,Northern Lights, Pearl Jam,Booker T. Jones, Led Zeppelin,Leon Russell, Elton John
Website neilyoung.com
Notable instruments
“Old Black”
Martin D-45
“Hank”
Gretsch White Falcon

image by mendigo-amigo

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