Solo Acoustic Cover of Old Man by Neil Young
 
Old Man is one of Neil Young's best songs from one of his most successful albums. He's written dozens of great songs over a five decade long career, and most people agree that Old Man is among the best.

I first heard this song when I was watching Neil perform a solo acoustic segment on a 1983 TV special featuring Neil and the Shocking Pinks. 

I wish I still had the tape I threw into the VCR that night. It was a great show. Until recently, I'd never thought of playing it with a band.

Here's my version Old Man.

In this video, I'm playing my Epiphone EJ-200SCE acoustic in Drop D tuning. Drop D is so common, many people forget it is actually an alternate tuning.

It's a good tuning for this song as it helps to fill in a bit of space and texture when you're playing it solo. Other than that, playing this song is primarily about getting the dynamics right. Building it up.

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About Neil Young's song "Old Man"

Old Man was released on the Harvest album in 1972. Young had been playing it live for over a year before it was released and it was likely written in 1970. It also appears on the 2007 release Live at Massey Hall 1971; part of Neil's archival releases.

On the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test, recorded on February 23, 1971 and in other performances, Young talks about being inspired by the caretaker of the Broken Arrow Ranch that he'd purchased in 1970. 

In the concert film Heart of Gold, Neil tell's this story:

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.

Performing on the album recording are:

  • Neil Young — vocals, guitar
  • Ben Keith — pedal steel guitar (Ben Keith was a long time Young collaborator who's first professional recording was on Patsy Cline's I Fall to Pieces.)
  • James McMahon — piano
  • James Taylor — banjo guitar, backing vocals (banjo guitars are banjos with six strings typically tuned to standard guitar tuning. They sound great in Open G tuning as well.)
  • Linda Ronstadt — backing vocals (Linda Ronstadt was at the beginnings of a very successful career through the 70s and 80s.)
  • Tim Drummond — bass (Tim Drummond played bass with many top folk and country/rock artists in the 70's and was the bass player in the aforementioned Neil and the Shocking Pinks.)
  • Kenny Buttrey — drums (Kenny Buttrey played on several Bob Dylan albums, and is the drummer on Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet.)

Old Man lyrics

Old man look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were.

Old man look at my life,
Twenty four
and there's so much more
Live alone in a paradise
That makes me think of two.

Love lost, such a cost,
Give me things
that don't get lost.
Like a coin that won't get tossed
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true.

Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town.
Doesn't mean that much to me
To mean that much to you.

I've been first and last
Look at how the time goes past.
But I'm all alone at last.
Rolling home to you.

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true.

Old man look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were.
Old man look at my life,
I'm a lot like you were.

©Neil Young, 1972