The song's title and some of its lyrics refer to the Tin Woodman from The Wizard of Oz. Songwriter Bunnell was quoted describing the parallel: "My favorite movie, I guess. I always loved it as a kid. Very obscure lyrics. Great grammar - 'Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man.' It's sort of a poetic license."
Dan Peek - who describes "Tin Man" as "quintessential Dewey, easy stream of consciousness with a major seventh acoustic bed" - states that Bunnell "actually begged us not to record the song. Knowing Dewey it was probably reverse psychology; if it was, Gerry [Beckley] and I fell for it, insisting it was perfect for the album."
Released as the first single from Holiday, "Tin Man" became the band's fourth top-ten hit in the US, spending three weeks at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1974. The song reached number one on the Billboardeasy listening chart in October of that year. In the UK, the song was relegated to the B-side of another album track, "Mad Dog", released in July, but both sides failed to chart.
A Finnish rendering of "Tin Man" entitled "Toisin käy" was recorded by Finnish band Cascade in 1974. Funk band Chocolate Milk also covered the song on their 1975 debut Action Speaks Louder Than Words.
Brazilian singer Ivo Meirelles recorded a Portuguese rendering of "Tin Man" entitled "Swing Man" for his 2004 album Samba Soul. The group Incognito also recorded the song on their album Bees + Things + Flowers (2006) which features singer Carleen Anderson.