Ol' '55

Album: On the Border (1974)
Play Video


  • This song was originally written and recorded in 1973 by Tom Waits, the American singer-songwriter, composer and actor. It was released on his debut album, Closing Time. The Eagles covered "Ol' '55" in 1974, with lead vocals by Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and pedal steel guitar by Al Perkins. Waits himself said that he didn't care for the Eagles cover of his song, calling it "antiseptic." But Tom Waits isn't an easy person to please. While he maintains more of a cult following, he stays for the most part in the background of the mainstream music scene. He is aggressively anti-commercialism, and detests the practice of using popular songs in advertising. This has led to a number of lawsuits he has brought against corporations for using his work without permission. He has won cases against Frito Lay, Levi Strauss & Co., Audi, Adam Opel AG, and - in an incident unrelated to his career - the Los Angeles Police Department. Don't mess with Tom Waits!
  • Other famous covers of "Ol' '55" include singer-songwriter Eric Andersen in the 1970s, and Sarah McLachlan on her 1994 album The Freedom Sessions. It is McLachlan's version that is used on the soundtrack of the 1995 film Boys on the Side.

Comments: 5

  • Mikeyt from VaI disagree about the "death" interpretation. 1) Funerals aren't held at sunup
    2) Why would a person on way to his funeral be "feeling so alive"?
    3) How is Lady Luck riding with a dead man?
    4) Trucks don't pass a funeral procession, and I have never seen lights flashing at a funeral
  • Joseph Troise from Sonoma, CaliforniaI actually asked Tom Waits about this song many years ago when he was playing small clubs in Denver, CO. He said the car was not a '55 Chevy but rather a '55 Buick.
  • Humberto Veras from Recife - BrazilThis song is about the death, certainly. The time already last, in the current time he leading the friends' list still alive and coming the other acquaintances behind in a line where all head for the death. It is a parable of Tom Wait doing that comparison, of a man that passed you finish hours with her lover and now returning home, he makes the relationship of the years already last and the ones that he still has for the front.
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI think I equally like this cover and the original by Tom Waits. It just depends on what kind of mood I'm in.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InI actually quite like this song, especially Al Perkins' wonderful pedal steel.
    Also, very nice to hear Henley and Frey sharing vocals so well.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Edwin McCain

Edwin McCainSongwriter Interviews

"I'll Be" was what Edwin called his "Hail Mary" song. He says it proves "intention of the songwriter is 180 degrees from potential interpretation by an audience."

Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds

Jim McCarty of The YardbirdsSongwriter Interviews

The Yardbirds drummer explains how they created their sound and talks about working with their famous guitarists.

Ian Anderson: "The delight in making music is that you don't have a formula"

Ian Anderson: "The delight in making music is that you don't have a formula"Songwriter Interviews

Ian talks about his 3 or 4 blatant attempts to write a pop song, and also the ones he most connected with, including "Locomotive Breath."

Mark Arm of Mudhoney

Mark Arm of MudhoneySongwriter Interviews

When he was asked to write a song for the Singles soundtrack, Mark thought the Seattle grunge scene was already overblown, so that's what he wrote about.

TV Theme Songs

TV Theme SongsFact or Fiction

Was a Beatles song a TV theme? And who came up with those Fresh Prince and Sopranos songs?

Scott Stapp

Scott StappSongwriter Interviews

The Creed lead singer reveals the "ego and self-fulfillment" he now sees in one of the band's biggest hits.