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.

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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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