"A Man I'll Never Be" is a change of pace from the songs on Boston's debut album and some of the other songs on Don't Look Back. Allmusic critic Tim Sendra claimed that the song reveals "a reflective side that was nowhere to be found on Boston." Paul Grein of Billboard commented on the song's "religious feel," describing it as "the softest cut on the album" and noting that "it may well be a strong single." Grein also commented on the song's "moody organ solo" and "ponderous ballad sound."New West magazine described the song's subject as "how hard it is to live up to a girl's image of a boy."Rolling Stone critic Ken Emerson compared "A Man I'll Never Be" to Led Zeppelin's lengthy classic song "Stairway to Heaven." On Boston's official site, David Wild described the song as "a slowburning power ballad reflecting real grown-up concerns and lived-in reality." Craig Rosen of Billboard Magazine concurred in describing the song as a power ballad.Los Angeles Times critic Jon Matsumoto called the song "a grandiose guilty pleasure." On the other hand, Milo Miles of Boston Phoenix called it a long stretch "of immaculate self-abuse."
Brad Delp sang the lead vocal on "A Man I'll Never Be," and Scholz played lead and rhythm guitar, organ and piano. The song was mostly recorded at Scholz' Hideaway Studio, although the piano part was recorded at Northern Studio in Maynard, Massachusetts because Hideaway was too small to fit the piano. Boston played "A Man I'll Never Be" live on the tour supporting their first album before recording it for Don't Look Back.
"A Man I'll Never Be" was later released on Boston's Greatest Hits in 1997.DGM covered the song on their 2007 album Different Shapes.Extreme covered the song live.