Like his earlier Buffalo Springfield piece "Expecting to Fly," "Old Laughing Lady" served as a striking mood piece on an album of powerful, autobiographical songs. Musically, it's built on some simple, downcast chord changes, in a modal D guitar tuning. This gives the entire composition a strong depth and creates a fine sense of grandeur. Lyrically, the stark themes of alienation, death, and love are an excellent metaphor for Young's vulnerability. Originally slated for Buffalo Springfield's final album, an early version was supposedly co-written and/or sung by Stephen Stills. The durability of the song showed when Young included it on his 1976 career retrospective, Decade.