Old Man (song)

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This article is about the Neil Young song. For the song of the same title by Love, see Forever Changes.
"Old Man"
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
Length 3:24
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s) Neil Young
Elliot Mazer
Henry Lewy
Jack Nitzsche
Neil Young singles chronology
"Heart of Gold"
"Old Man"
"War Song"

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

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.[1] 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[edit]

The song can be heard in the films Dogtown and Z-Boys, Wonder Boys, Running on Empty, Due Date, Lords of Dogtown and The Expendables 3.

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.[2]

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.[3]

Chart performance[edit]

"Old Man" was released as a single in the spring of 1972, and reached no. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for the week ending June 3.


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 series Californication.

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.



  1. ^ McDonough, Jimmy. Shakey: Neil Young's Biography. New York: Anchor, 2003, p. 364.
  2. ^ Leigh Creighton and wires (February 4, 2008). Heath Ledger's star-studded Hollywood memorial. Daily Telegraph. Accessed February 3, 2008.
  3. ^ "Official Redlight King website". Redlight King. Retrieved 2011-06-19.