Old Man (song)
|Single by Neil Young|
|from the album Harvest|
|B-side||"The Needle and the Damage Done"|
|Released||April 17, 1972|
|Format||7" 45 RPM|
|Recorded||Quadrafonic Sound Studio, Nashville TN, February 6, 1971|
|Genre||Folk rock, country rock|
|Neil Young singles chronology|
"Old Man" is a song written and performed by Neil Young on his 1972 album Harvest. "Old Man" was released as a single on Reprise Records in the spring of 1972, and reached no. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for the week ending June 3.
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").
Uses in popular culture and covers
- In 1988, the song is heard in the film Running on Empty.
- In 1998, N'Dea Davenport recorded the song for her 1998 debut album, N'Dea Davenport.
- In 2000, the song is heard in the film Wonder Boys.
- In 2001, the song is heard in the documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys.
- Bob Dylan regularly covered this song at a number of concerts on his 2002 tour, including one at Madison Square Garden.
- In 2004 the song was covered by Canadian folk trio The Wailin' Jennys for their debut full length album, 40 Days, and by 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. It also appears in the film Lords of Dogtown.
- On December 5, 2006, the song was played at St. Louis Blues player Brett Hull's jersey retirement ceremony, as the jersey rose to the rafters.
- In 2007, Grand National covered the song on their album A Drink and a Quick Decision as a live bonus track.
- In 2008, during the memorial service for Heath Ledger, the song was chosen to be played with a slideshow of pictures from Ledger's life. Liam Finn (Neil Finn's son) & EJ Barnes (Jimmy Barnes's daughter) covered the song on the TV show RocKwiz.
- In 2010, the live version of the song from Live at Massey Hall 1971 was used briefly in the film Due Date. Donna Loren covered the song on her album Love It Away, and 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 series Californication.
- In 2011 Dallas Green, of City and Colour and Alexisonfire, covered the song at The 2011 Juno Awards, and post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd covered it on their covers album Re:(disc)overed. That same year 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.
- In 2013, The Voice Australia contestant Danny Ross covered it in the Live Finals 2.
- In 2014, the song appears in the film The Expendables 3.
- In 2015, Neil Young appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and performed the song with Fallon as his Neil Young character. 
- Neil Young — vocals, guitar
- Ben Keith — pedal steel guitar
- James McMahon — piano
- James Taylor — banjo guitar, backing vocals
- Linda Ronstadt — backing vocals
- Tim Drummond — bass
- Kenny Buttrey — drums
- McDonough, Jimmy. Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. New York: Anchor, 2003, p. 364.
- Leigh Creighton and wires (February 4, 2008). Heath Ledger's star-studded Hollywood memorial. Daily Telegraph. Accessed February 3, 2008.
- "Official Redlight King website". Redlight King. Retrieved 2011-06-19.