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Willie Nelson Sings Toby Keith’s ‘Don’t Let the Old Man In’ [Listen]

No one will ever top Toby Keith‘s version of “Don’t Let the Old Man In,” but that doesn’t mean Willie Nelson’s cover isn’t worth your time.

The 90-year-old country icon recorded the song for his 2020 First Rose of Spring album, and at the time, one could make a case that his was more effective. Nelson’s time on Earth felt more precious then, whereas Keith was admittedly singing lyrics inspired by another octogenarian, Clint Eastwood.

In 2023 and 2024, as Keith cancer battle came into focus, his original version of “Don’t Let the Old Man In” started to hit differently. A stunning performance at the 2023 People’s Choice Country Awards left the audience in tears. Just four months later, he’d die at age 62.

Nelson shared a brief note about Keith on social media, but this cover of “Don’t Let the Old Man In” may be a better tribute.

Sonically, the two versions are very similar. Nelson’s vocals are unique, but Nelson’s vocals are always unique. One feels his personal connection as he sings:

“I knew all of my life / That someday it will end / Get up and go outside / Don’t let the old man in.”

Nelson wasn’t the only hitmaker to cover this song. During an interview with Taste of Country, Keith noted Englebert Humperdinck’s version, as well as a few international hitmakers.

Humperdinck’s version can be found on his Reflections EP.

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