February 25th, 2012

Neil Young—and old.

Here’s Young singing “Old Man” as a young man:

Here’s Young singing “Old Man” as an old[er] man:

He’s a lot like he was.

[Hat tip: commenter "AGA."]

24 Responses to “Neil Young—and old.”

  1. SteveH Says:

    I never really considered this a country song. But dang if it ain’t got a banjo, steel guitar and being performed on stage at the Ryman. I guess it qualifies.

    I’d say he does it just as well now as he did in 71.

  2. Papa Dan Says:

    That clip is from “Heart of Gold”, which also has Emmylou Harris, well worth renting.

  3. Trimegistus Says:

    Meh. Never liked Neil Young. His voice has always sounded like fingernails on a blackboard to me, and the words he sings are stupidity mixed with evil.

  4. carl in atlanta Says:

    With respect, I gotta disagree with you there, Tri.

    In the pantheon of post WWII singer-song writers, he’ll rank not far below Dylan  (that’s my opinion, but I’m not alone).  Then again, I was 20 years old in 1971. 

    When it comes to politics he’s still a pitifully naive adolescent, but otherwise nobody writes – - or sings – - more soulfully, and he is a virtuoso guitarist (and that is only one of the many instruments he’s mastered). As for his voice, it’s certainly distinctive (and I can see how some folks might not like it), but it’s certainly no more  ”distinctive” than Dylan’s.

    I deplore Neil Young’s politics, but God knows he’s got talent. And I say that as a “Southern man”.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Young is one of those singers with “distinctive” voices with a tone that I happen to like. There’s a sort of tremolo sobby quality to it that appeals to me. I’m not a big fan, despite that. But I really like “Heart of Gold.”

    This post is about the young/old old/young thing.

    Here’s “Heart of Gold”:

  6. SteveH Says:

    An interesting piece of trivia on wikipedia i never knew involving the banjo playing in “Old Man”……

    “1927 Gibson Mastertone, a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar, used on many recordings and played by James Taylor on “Old Man.”

  7. LAG Says:

    Tri, concur. This is the proper response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwWUOmk7wO0

  8. Rose Says:

    In the art department, every time a Neil Young song came on the radio – the boys would say “My favorite Neil Young song.” Didn’t matter which one it was.

    They liked their Smashing Pumpkins and other then trendy music – but Neil Young, still “My favorite Neil Young song.”

    ‘Flying mother nature’s silver seed to a new home in the sun’….

  9. Gringo Says:

    As a thinker on politics, Neil Young is a good singer-songwriter.

    Like so many. While I admire Willie Nelson as a composer and performer [the man can swing!], I would commit suicide before I would vote the Willie Way. Or I would have to be stoned out of my gourd before I voted the Willie Way. :)

  10. Parker Says:

    “When it comes to politics he’s still a pitifully naive adolescent, but otherwise nobody writes – – or sings – – more soulfully…”

    I not sure about the “nobody” does part, but I agree with you in that NY is a great song writer. Sure, he’s written some pure junk but the gems out number the junk by a long shot.

    I never pay attention to the politics of musicians, actors, or artists in general. If their art touches me in a positive way that is all that concerns me. I believe in a free society where you can believe what you wish to believe and live as you think best as long as you don’t step on the toes of others or point a gun at me. We’re not truly free but I try day by day to live my life that way.

    To everyone I wish “long may you run”.

  11. carl in atlanta Says:

    I apologize for going OT there, Neo. 

    I saw Neil Young here at the Fox Theater two years ago (I think it was two years ago) and he played “Old Man” during that show. I remember because one of the strong impressions I took away from the concert was the sense of having seen a 60-something geezer [no offense Neil] singing that song not so much for the fans out in the audience as TO his younger self.  The two versions of “Old Man” posted above are particularly poignant in that way. And both are good. Thanks for finding and sharing those.

  12. rickl Says:

    I’ve liked Neil Young’s music for a long time, but I admit that I haven’t followed him much in the last few years, largely because of his political pronouncements.

    I’m unable to compartmentalize an artist’s art and their asinine politics. Consequently I decided several years ago that I’m unwilling to give them my money or attention. If that cuts me off from a lot of good art and music, so be it.

    I still go to Bob Dylan concerts whenever he’s in my area, partly because he doesn’t wear his politics on his sleeve. He rarely says a word about politics nowadays. He’s the living embodiment of Laura Ingraham’s “Shut Up and Sing”.

    (Note that I can work in a mention of Bob Dylan into almost any blog comment on almost any topic. That’s part of my idiosyncratic writing style. :) )

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    Artists’ philosophical, moral and political views are the core of their beings, as they are mine. I can perhaps compartmentalize their instrumentation, but not their lyrics, where their cores necessarily shine through.

  14. SteveH Says:

    “”Artists’ philosophical, moral and political views are the core of their beings, as they are mine.”"

    I don’t think i agree with those things revealing the core of a person. Because of my experience of relating to people who voice almost identical philosophical, moral and political views as the next person but being entirely different in the varying levels of goodness at their core.

    These are surface things we adopt as life coping mechanisms that don’t neccessarily get to the core of the matter as to what’s in a persons heart. Which is why you’ll find asshole jerks and really great people of all political shapes and sizes.

  15. Don Carlos Says:

    So you differentiate morality from ‘goodness’? Meh. Philosophical, moral and political matters are not in ‘a person’s heart’? What is there in those hearts, that you prize so much? Something you call ‘goodness’?

  16. SteveH Says:

    “”So you differentiate morality from ‘goodness’?”"

    No. I differentiate between words and actions. One grasps to put forth an image and the other is reality. Much like the burly macho guy who runs in fear at the first sign of combat while some milktoast smuck thrives under such conditions.

    Who and what people are is much deeper than a veneer of language.

  17. Parker Says:

    Many people believe in things that they don’t really understand. For example, ‘progressives’ routinely fail to acknowledge the readily observed socio-economic consequences of their political beliefs. They have an ideological comfort zone and anything outside that zone is explained away by their dogma or willfully ignored. They remain on cruise control inside that comfort zone for their entire life. Few experience an epiphany that changes their world view. People like neo are rare.

  18. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos, Parker, SteveH, etc: and I am basically the same person before my “change” and after.

    And having looked at politics from “both sides now,” I can say that there’s good and bad on both sides, and the measure of it (for me) is how people act. In particular, how they treat other people.

    Probably if I looked up studies of the behavior of the different political groups I could find trends. For example, I’m familiar with the research that says that as a whole conservatives tend to give more to charity. I’m not as familiar with other characteristics, but no doubt they exist on a statistical basis. But they are no guide whatsoever on a personal basis, I’ve found.

    Most people’s politics are not that well thought out and deeply arrived at. Most people just adopt the politics of their family, friends, and milieu. Most people just don’t think about it that much.

  19. carl in atlanta Says:

    “Few experience an epiphany that changes their world view.”

    You’ve certainly got that right, Parker. In my experience, people tend to “imprint” on a political world view at some point in their lives (usually in their early 20s?), just like baby geese imprint on the first thing they see walking around. Once that occurs it’s usually set in stone. And after imprinting, few people are able to change. Among my personal acquaintances, I know of no one who has had the epiphany you describe. The only other folks who come to mind at the moment (other than Neo) are Andrew Breitbart and David Horowitz, though there are certainly others that I should be recalling…

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    carl in Atlanta:

    Political changers.

  21. Charles Maxwell, CDR, USN Says:

    I grow up on Neil Young and always loved his music. While I was in College I cut my ‘guitar teeth’ on Neil Young. Never cared for his politics and, while I was in the navy (25 years), I didn’t find many Neil Young fans to share stories with! I still like Neil Young and I love listening to his scratchy voice. This video tandem brought a melancholic moment to my day that I must thank you for. It hurt just a bit to realize how much we have aged since those days but, I’m happy in my skin and not afraid to be that Old Man, if anybody will listen! Thanks Neo…love your blog.

  22. carl in atlanta Says:

    Thank you, Ma’am; and glad you’re keeping an eye open for fellow travellers (so to speak)! I will check out that list.

  23. davisbr Says:

    The young Neil sings

    “…old man look at my life, I’m a lot like youuuuuu were.” The pacing is even, with a bit more to the “you”. He sings the song he wrote. Studio-ish.

    The old Neil sings

    “…old man look at my life, I’ma lot like you weeeeerrrre.” The pacing is accentuated, for effect. He’s singing a memory, an apology.

    I was struck by the two different stories I heard there. I exaggerate a bit perhaps, but listen, it’s not that subtle: the plaintives lend a totally different nuance to the tune.

    As if from two different people.

    Oh …and so they are.

    (I originally missed the charming tale the older Neil told his audience in the video, about the caretaker on the ranch that he wrote the song to; you have to scroll back to the beginning. It’s worth it.)

  24. DNW Says:

    Hey hey, my my.

    I’d almost forgotten about Neil Young.

    He had a couple of really rocking songs though.

    Here’s one,


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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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