About the song
If you are a fan of Neil Young, you probably know his song “Old Man”, a folk rock classic from his 1972 album Harvest. But do you know the story behind this song? In this blog post, we will explore the origins and meaning of “Old Man”, and how it reflects Young’s life and career.
“Old Man” was inspired by the caretaker of the ranch that Young bought in 1970, called Broken Arrow Ranch, located in Northern California. The ranch was a 640-acre property that Young purchased for $350,000, which was a lot of money for a young rock star at the time. The caretaker was an old man named Louis Avila, who had been working on the ranch for many years.
Young was fascinated by Avila’s life and personality, and how different it was from his own. He wrote the song as a way of comparing their experiences and needs, and showing that they were not so different after all. He said in an interview: “He [Avila] asked me how I could afford to live there. I told him I was a songwriter, and he didn’t know what that meant. He thought it meant I had a printing press in the basement where I made money.”
Young recorded “Old Man” in Nashville, with some of the best musicians in the country, including James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt on backing vocals. He also used a six-string banjo, tuned like a guitar, to give the song a distinctive sound. The song was released as a single in April 1972, and reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It became one of Young’s most popular and enduring songs, and has been covered by many artists over the years.
“Old Man” is more than just a song about a ranch caretaker. It is also a song about Young’s own journey as a musician and a person, and how he dealt with fame, success, and loneliness. It is a song that expresses his gratitude for what he had, but also his longing for something more. It is a song that resonates with anyone who has ever felt old or young, rich or poor, loved or alone.