Neil Young's new release ""World Record" w/ Crazy Horse is now available for pre-order. Order here
(Please shop locally & independently. But if you can't, we appreciate your supporting Thrasher's Wheat by clicking this link or YOUR COUNTRY's FLAG. Thank you!!!)
<-Older Posts Blog Home Newer Posts->

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day! Neil Young, "Old Man" & The Story Behind The Song


Happy Father's Day! 

Neil Young's "Old Man" seems an appropriate song for the day. From BBC 1971.... back when Neil was a young man ... look at how time flies past.... i'm a lot like you were...

From his 1972 album Harvest, "Old Man" is definitely one of Mr Young's most enduring songs of all time with brilliant banjo and steel guitar. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt provide backing vocals. 

The song was inspired by the caretaker of the Northern California Broken Arrow Ranch, which Young purchased for $350,000 in 1970 when he was just 25 years old. The song has themes of loneliness and lost love: "Live alone in a paradise that makes me think of two" recalled with a certain pain "love lost/such a cost/give me things that don't get lost." Yet Neil searches on for that oh-so elusive heart of gold:

"I need someone to love me the whole day through 
Oh one look in my eyes and you can tell that's true."
In the film "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 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.
The "Old Man" Louis Avala & Neil Young 
1970 Dutch documentary film by Wim Van der Linden So happy father's Dad ... from a not so young man to our old man... 
The "Old Man" Louis Avala 
YouTube - Neil Young - Old Man - Live at Massey Hall

Also, watch & listen to why Neil Young will never sing "Old Man" with a band again

And here are a few more appropriate Neil Young Father's Day songs... (Thanks Ralf B.!) - "Daddy Went Walking" - "Far From Home" ("Daddy took an old guitar and sang ...") - Sixty To Zero (talk to my daddy On the telephone ...") - Don't Be Denied ("daddy's leavin' home today ...") - Prairie Wind ("Tryin' to remember what my Daddy said ..." ‎- This Old House ("thinking 'bout daddy, And how he always made things work ...")


Here's Canadian rapper Redlight King sampling Neil Young's "Old Man". See A Rapper Covers "Old Man": The Story Behind The Music.

Labels: ,


At 6/17/2012 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

at bridge last year they played a video and the original harvest version of "old man" was used as the soundtrack. i got chills listening to it, thinking of it's history and how close we were to the ranch. lucky've lived a charmed life, old man.

At 6/17/2012 01:55:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...!/pages/THE-NEIGHBOR-HOODS/388106621981?bookmark_t=page

Now I'm the Old Man...

...when I was a young man
I thought I knew it all
pissed my folks off
all year long

now I'm the old man
two kids of my own
it'd down the road
life takes the turn...

- I wouldn't trade fatherhood for all the tea in China, or all the Gold in the hills.

Happy Pappy Day all.

At 6/18/2012 01:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that's always been the 'official' story.

But do you really think Neil was speaking to Louis Avila when he said:

'Doesn't mean that much to me,
To mean that much to you'
'Like a coin that won't get tossed,
Rollin' home to you'


Also, do you really think Neil was talking to Louis and referring to his ranch when he said:

'Lullabies, look in your eyes,
Run around the same old town'


Don't think the 'same old town' just might've been TO or Omemee/Cavan?

Not that anything I say matters but, having something of a connection to the situation, I can tell you that there were definitely difficulties between Neil, Bob and their Dad during the 60's in particular - which I'm sure most people who read this will know anyway.

That said, I can't imagine Neil returning to TO and Massey Hall and prefacing 'Old Man' by saying, with Scott in the audience, 'I wrote this song about my Dad'. It was a very emotional homecoming. Neil would never do that.

There's no doubt, however, that Scott thought it was about him and was haunted by it.

Gratefully, their relationship became veru good 'as the time (went) past' . . .

At 6/18/2012 02:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Postscript to the previous . . .

Obviously not asking you to believe me. Agin, just look at the lyrics for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Do you really think Neil, being Neil, would ever write such a song – truly one of his greatest, most heartfelt, most signature of songs – about a ranch hand he'd recently met?

Given Neil and Scott's past at the time, do you really think Neil, then recently divorced like his Dad had been from his Mom, could ever view himself as being more like Louis Avila than his own Dad who, by the way, also owned a ranch, or as it was called, the 'farm'?
I think the tune is about Neil having to somewhat painfully confront the fact through experience that he was really a lot more like his Dad than he ever thought, could've known, or admitted while he was growing up. Perhaps Neil was truly 'finding out it's real' in a way he hadn't altogether anticipated.

Gee, if that were so Neil wouldn't be like many other sons, would he, who discover they're more like their Dad than they ever thought, perhaps particularly those things that infuriated them about their Dad? Sincerely coming to terms and dealing with that is Love itself. Thankfully, that’s what Father’s Day is about too . . .

The Louis Avila story has become a nice Neil legend, but I've never bought it. Again, just think about Neil and Scott, and take another look at the actual lyrics and Neil’s incredibly emotional delivery of this wonderful song for the ages.

And of course, Heaven forbid that we should ever fail to take everything Neil says literally . . . :-)

At 6/18/2012 02:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One last small point with reference to your introduction to this thread: Neil actually was "24", not 25, when he bought the ranch.

At 6/18/2012 03:41:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I'm willing to be the new "Old Man" on the ranch. I can't pay a lot but, I will work hard.

At 6/19/2012 07:37:00 PM, Blogger Sandy Horne said...

@ Anon. I have to say, that thought has never even crossed my mind. I just have accepted the story as told by Neil himself. But whether it is true or not, it is a facinating possibility!! Actually makes the song even more poignant to think about it in terms of him thinking about his father. thanks for sharing. Sandy

At 6/19/2012 09:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Sandy,

As noted, if you look at the actual lyrics of ‘Old Man’ and the context in which they were written, it makes a lot more sense that they’re about Scott than Louis Avila (who Neil had just met), and I’m pretty sure that’s the case.

Scott was a very kindly man, with one of the most dry, wry, ironic senses of humour you'd ever encounter. Women loved him. And he talked v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y a-n-d p-l-o-d-d-i-n-g-l-y. He would tell a joke and come to the punchline and deliver it so slowly that everyone would be suppressing the urge to howl laughter half way through because they knew what he was going to say, and they had to wait for him t-o f-i-n-i-s-h d-e-l-i-v-e-r-i-n-g i-t. And all this would be just as funny as the joke itself.

Also, Scott was even more driven than Neil to be a writer, as Neil himself has said. He grew up in the Depression, on the Prairies during the Dust Bowl, and (like Neil) his parents split up, but at a time when very few parents split up. He got about as far in high school as Neil did and, for him, becoming a writer was, among other things, one of the only things he could do to escape grinding poverty and see the greater world. He published his last book – about his 45th, on top of all his years of high-profile journalistic work – when he was about 80, before he began slip into, as Neil put it, ‘living in the moment’.

So in many respects, Neil is ‘a lot like’ Scott.

That said, Neil could also have written a song – perhaps wouldn’t have been a very good song – about how he’s ‘a lot like’ his mother, Rassie. I’d say, if heredity is really at work here, that he gets the more mercurial, irascible, quirky, flashpoint quick-mindedness, and fiercely loving and loyal sides of his character from her. And you could also say of her that she ‘need(ed) someone to love her the whole day through . . .’, but unfortunately she never got that.

If you want to see a rather humorous TV clip of Scott that depicts a little of what I’ve described, check this out from 1959. It’s entitled ‘Errol Flynn, witness to revolution in Cuba’, which you can search for at if the link doesn’t get you there.

At 6/16/2019 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Timmo said...

I agree. In the interview, Neil says he wrote the song FOR Louis, not ABOUT him. I believe he wrote a song about his Dad, but was inspired to write it after meeting Louis.

At 6/28/2019 10:36:00 AM, Blogger Robert said...

I accept the story the way Neil has told it. For nearly 50 years his story has remained consistent, unlike Dolly Parton's story of "Jolene."

At 12/03/2022 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Amy Catt said...

My family sold Neil the Ranch, and Louie stayed, just as he had stayed when we bought it. It was his home. Louie absolutely believed Old Man was written about him, and was extremely proud of it. He sang it for us on a visit before Harvest was released.

At 12/04/2022 02:21:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Amy - thanks for sharing this! Anything else to add??


Post a Comment

<< Home

<-Older Posts Blog Home Newer Posts->

Willie for a Nobel!

Willie Nelson for Nobel Peace Prize
for Farm Aid and his work on
alternative fuels, and world peace initiatives.

Farm Aid

Go Farmers Markets!

"In the >field< of opportunity
It's plowin' time again."

Silverline Communications

(Home of the FarmAidians)
Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada
(519) 737-7979

This blog supports free speech!

Demand justice for Aaron:
Support "Aaron's Law" and inquiry into his prosecution

(... he didn't kill himself either...) #AaronDidntKillHimself

Induct Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Please Help Support Independent Media &
Non-Corporate Advertising
This Blog's For You!

The Hypocrisy of the Mainstream Media

It's Been Called The
"Missing Link" in the Ditch Trilogy


Sign the Release "Time Fades Away" Petition
Join The 10,000+ Who Have Already Signed


Neil Young Appreciation Society

Sugar Mountain

Neil Young Setlists
Rust Radio


Bands Covering Neil Young songs


Official Neil Young News Site

The Bridge School

The Bridge School Concerts
25th Anniversary Edition

**100% of Proceeds to Benefit Bridge School***

The Essential Neil Young

Fans Favorite Neil Albums

Top 50 MP3
Neil Young Song Downloads

Top 10 Best Selling Neil Albums Today
Support Thrasher's Wheat
via Purchases from:
United States - us.gif
Canada - canada.gif
United Kingdom - gb.gif
Germany - de.gif

Neil Young Songbook Project

In the fields of wheat

"Children of Destiny" will NOT be harvested
However, the chaff will be burned by unquenchable fire

Neil Young + Promise of the Real

Europe 2016 Tour Dates

2015 Rebel Content Tour

Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Alchemy Concert Tour Reviews

Fall 2012 N. America Tour
Spring 2013 Australia/New Zealand Tour
Summer 2013 Europe Tour

Europe Summer 2014 Concert Tour
Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Thrasher's Wheat Radio Supporters Go To Europe

Neil Young Films

2010 MusiCares Honors Neil Young

Features Elvis Costello, Crosby Stills & Nash, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Ben Harper, Elton John, Norah Jones, Lady Antebellum, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Keith Urban, and others.
Proceeds from sales go to MusiCares,
which helps musicians in need of
financial and medical assistance.


"There's more to the picture
Than meets the eye"



Neil Young FAQ:
Everything Left to Know About the Iconic and Mercurial Rocker
"an indispensable reference"

Paul McCartney and Neil Young


"You can make a difference
If you really a try"

John Lennon and Neil Young

"hailed by fans as a wonderful read"

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young:
The Supergroup of the 20th Century

Director Jonathan Demme's Exquisite film "Heart of Gold"

eddie & neil
Eddie Vedder and Neil Young

Revisiting The Significance of
The Buffalo Springfield

"The revolution will not be televised"
... it will be blogged, streamed,
tweeted, shared and liked
The Embarrassment of Mainstream Media

Turn Off Your TV & Have A Life

"Everything Is Bullshit" +
"Turn Off The News"
Turn Off the News (Build a Garden)

Neil Young 2016 Year in Review:
The Year of The Wheat

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain and Neil Young

Neil Young's Feedback:
An Acquired Taste?

Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years
by Rustie Sharry "Keepin' Jive Alive in T.O." Wilson

"the definitive source of Neil Young's formative childhood years in Canada"

neil & joni
Joni Mitchell & Neil Young

europe 1987.jpg

Bob and Neil

So Who Really Was "The Godfather of Grunge"?

Four Dead in Ohio
kent state
So What Really Happened at Kent State?

The Four Dead in Ohio

May The FOUR Be With You #MayThe4thBeWithYou


dissent is not treason
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism

Rockin' In The Free World

Sing Truth to Power!
When Neil Young Speaks Truth To Power,
The World Listens

Emmylou Harris and Neil Young

Wilco and Neil Young


Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young


Elton John and Neil Young

Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young


The Meaning of "Sweet Home Alabama" Lyrics

Neil Young Nation -
"The definitive Neil Young fan book"

What does the song mean?

Random Neil Young Link of the Moment

Bonnie Raitt and Neil Young

I'm Proud to Be A Union Man


When Neil Young is Playing,
You Shut the Fuck Up

Class War:
They Started It and We'll Finish It...

A battle raged on the open page...
No Fear, No Surrender. Courage

"What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees?"
Full Disclousre Now

"I've Got The Revolution Blues"

Willie Nelson & Neil Young
Willie Nelson for Nobel Peace Prize

John Mellencamp:
Why Willie Deserves a Nobel



Love and Only Love

"Thinking about what a friend had said,
I was hoping it was a lie"

We're All On
A Journey Through the Past

Neil Young's Moon Songs
Tell Us The F'n TRUTH
(we can handle it... try us)

Does Anything Else Really Matter?

"Nobody's free until everybody's free."
~~ Fannie Lou Hamer

Here Comes "The Big Shift"

Maybe everything you think you know is wrong? NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS
"It's all illusion anyway."

Propaganda = Mind Control
Guess what?
"Symbols Rule the World, not Words or Laws."
... and symbolism will be their downfall...

Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge
Be The Rain, Be The Change

the truth will set you free
This Machine Kills Fascists

"Children of Destiny" - THE Part of THE Solution

(Frame from Official Music Video)

war is not the answer
yet we are
Still Living With War

"greed is NOT good"
Hey Big Brother!
Stop Spying On Us!
Civic Duty Is Not Terrorism

The Achilles Heel
Orwell (and Grandpa) Was Right
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.”
~~ Bob Marley

The Essence of "The Doubters"

Yes, There's Definitely A Hole in The Sky

Even Though The Music Died 50+ Years Ago
Open Up the "Tired Eyes" & Wake up!
"consciousness is near"
What's So Funny About
Peace, Love, & Understanding & Music?


Show Me A Sign

"Who is John Galt?"
To ask the question is to know the answer

"Whosoever shall give up his liberty for a temporary security
deserves neither liberty nor safety."

~~ Benjamin Franklin


(Between the lines of age)

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make

~~ John & Paul

the zen of neil
the power of rust
the karma of the wheat