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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.

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8 Comments:

At 6/17/2012 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Dominic Holdem 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 indeed...you've lived a charmed life, old man.

 
At 6/17/2012 01:55:00 PM, Blogger SONY said...

https://www.facebook.com/#!/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'
or
'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 dean farinha 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 www.CBC.ca if the link doesn’t get you there.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Digital+Archives/Politics/International+Politics/ID/1405798270/?page=12

 

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