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"Old Man" was released as a single on Reprise Records in the spring of 1972, and reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for the week ending June 3. 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 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, Louis, just real lucky." And he said, "Well, that's the darnedest thing I ever heard." And I wrote this song for him."