Old Man (3:27)

Cover of Harvest

From Harvest and 71 other releases

“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 of 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 that song , 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 Avala 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”).

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. Dylan played the keyboard on his arrangement of the song.

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