The life I love is making music with my friends
September 2, 2014 3:53 PM   Subscribe

All Roads Lead to [still-living country music legend*] Willie Nelson: "In a time when America is more divided than ever, Nelson could be the one thing that everybody agrees on."

Summer from hell got you down? Let the man who (in the words of Kris Kristofferson) plays like Segovia and phrases like a jazz singer remind you that there is still goodness (and magic) in the world. Check out a selection of videos from the official Willie Nelson youtube channel (suggested first stop: his 1982 live version of Always On My Mind), as well as this great assortment of songs from a previous FPP on Willie and his trusty sidekick, Trigger.

If you're a newcomer to the awesomeness that is Willie and you're wondering where to get started with his nearly 60-year career (or just what the fuss is all about), check out Nathan Rabin's two-part profile of the Red-Headed Stranger.

May the universe heed Steven van Zandt's birthday greetings to the man himself last year: Eighty more, baby!
posted by scody (25 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Odd timing on this post...I just spent the better part of this past holiday weekend listening (for the first time) to "Red Headed Stranger", "Stardust", and "Willie and the Wheel". They are all three of them completely awesome.
posted by Ipsifendus at 4:04 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Heartland" (with Bob Dylan) and "What Was It You Wanted" are both devastating. (And the whole album Across the Borderline is fantastic.)

Great post!
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are You Sure? is a desert island track for me. He's such an amazing songwriter.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:25 PM on September 2, 2014

Willie is one of those musicians I respect more than I like... don't get me wrong there are plenty of songs by WN that I DO like, but there are also plenty I really (Really) don't like. However I do respect the hell out of him, he is quintessential America(the good parts).

Also have heard he has smoked pot on the roof of the White House, while I'm not a huge pot smoker advocate I gotta give mad props to anyone that manages that.
posted by edgeways at 4:40 PM on September 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Willie Nelson is a living saint in my book.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:46 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also have heard he has smoked pot on the roof of the White House, while I'm not a huge pot smoker advocate I gotta give mad props to anyone that manages that.

Lennon claimed that the Beatles did it in Buckingham Palace, which kind of one ups him. Flatness of the voice has always been a problem for me, but hey! Pleasure to millions, which is more than I've ever done.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2014

I like his music just fine but I like his style even more. He is the model to which many of us old farts aspire. I am working on my ponytail as we speak...
posted by jim in austin at 4:55 PM on September 2, 2014

I may be alone in this, but Teatro is my favorite Willie album of them all. I love the acoustic qualities of the recording, and the spareness of the delivery.
posted by julen at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

still-living country music legend

posted by shakespeherian at 5:04 PM on September 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

I may be alone in this, but Teatro is my favorite Willie album of them all

No, I'm right there with you, insofar as I can pick a favorite (I also madly love Stardust, Red-Headed Stranger, and Country Music).
posted by scody at 5:41 PM on September 2, 2014

Somewhere along the line, Willie Nelson had a part in some western where his character was commenting on some guy's skill with a gun and said "That guy couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a banjo." I know the phrase has been around a long time, but for some reason, they way Willie delivered it was so exactly right in the tone and natural manner of it that ever since then, anyone else saying it - before or after - just feels to me like they're reciting a quote. There are just these moments with Willie when he's acting that he is so dead-on matter-of-fact, with even little things like this, that Willie and the character he is playing just merge perfectly.

I have no idea why I remember just that line after 25 years or so, but it stuck with me for some reason. I mention it here perhaps because so much of the praise I could say has already been said by so many.
posted by chambers at 5:50 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had trouble getting into Teatro; I'll try it again.

Across The Borderline was my gateway album; I always find his duet with Bonnie Raitt Getting Over You devastating.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:59 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I haven't listened to Across the Borderline for awhile... it's really fantastic, too.
posted by scody at 6:07 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

He used to be a dishwasher at a restaurant mere blocks from my house!
posted by sourwookie at 7:16 PM on September 2, 2014

Just this weekend my sister was telling me about the upcoming auction for Willie Nelson's braids, and we speculated about what one would do with them - wear them? Fashion a dog tug-toy? A holiday ornament?

No matter what else, I think the winner of that auction will have to smell them, just once.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:36 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've never owned a Willie Nelson album, but his influence and ubiquity is such that I can hear him singing and speaking in my head without ever having "gotten into" him. There aren't a lot of artists I can say that about. Plus there's everything good he's ever done, like Farm Aid. Rock on, Willie, you're a national treasure.
posted by immlass at 7:41 PM on September 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I may be alone in this, but Teatro is my favorite Willie album of them all

I love Teatro too!

Thanks for the post; what a good reminder to go listen to some Willie.
posted by aka burlap at 8:02 PM on September 2, 2014

I have only started liking Willie Nelson (Neil Young too) as I've gotten older and I'm so glad to be getting to know him now - he's good company as middle age mellows me. Plus he's headed to my 'hood this weekend!
posted by headnsouth at 8:26 PM on September 2, 2014

There's an old Playboy interview where he explains how come he got a collapsed lung (he was in his swimming pool and it was a close call): he quit smoking. Wille Nelson's method of quitting smoking is, whenever you want a Marlboro, smoke a joint instead. So he had been smoking at least 20 joints a day, just before this.
posted by thelonius at 8:45 PM on September 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bruce Robison wrote a song about Willie: What Would Willie Do? that I sometimes sing in time of trouble or indecision.
posted by julen at 3:16 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the post! Big country music fan, and for my money, early Willie is the best. The stuff from the '60s is just amazing -- he wasn't always singing (or writing) the best material, but if you're a fan of great vocal music (even jazz vocals), Willie was one of the best country singers. He had that Texas bend to his notes, like a lot of other great Texan musician/vocalists (all the way from Jack Teagarden to T-Bone Walker). It's the same place where Western swing came from (and yes, Bob Wills is still the best).

Check out the first half of Country Favorites, Willie Nelson Style, with totally clean, totally ripping versions of "My Window Faces the South" or "Columbus Stockade Blues". Another great early LP is Country Willie - His Own Songs.
posted by saintjoe at 6:14 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

What really really sucks is that one of the musicians who's most responsible for putting Nashville on the map doesn't ever get so much as a mention in the media here, unless it's for one of his pot arrests -- even though, as the article states, he has just put out one of his best albums in years, and one that's topped the country chart (for the first time since The Promiseland in 1986) and hit the top five pop albums to boot (no mean feat for an 81-year-old).

I wonder if they'll even blink here when he passes.
posted by blucevalo at 8:22 AM on September 3, 2014

Great post!

I've seen Willie several times, but the first time I saw him was at the big Earth Day concert at the old Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, MA, in 1991. I was 17. It was an 8 hour concert that was mostly set changes - two or three songs from like 15 bands. The crowd was fairly hostile, as I recall. The people behind us spent her whole set heckling Queen "LaQUEEFA", for instance. It was cold. When the announcer said Willie Nelson was next there was sort of an embarrassed groan in the crowd. This was pretty late in the day, "country" music was not all that beloved in Massachusetts then (far as I could tell, anyway), and people just wanted to hear Bruce Hornsby play some hits, man.

But when Willie actually started playing people went NUTS. Honestly, I've never seen a crowd more quickly embrace a performer. EVERY person I could see was on their feet screaming along to "On the Road Again", myself included. How can someone, their stage presence, and their song combine to be THAT charismatic? That universally appealing? At any rate, even 23 years ago he was an elder statesman, and a uniter. We were surprised by it then, I was anyway, but no one is surprised when everyone loves Willie now.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:06 AM on September 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my favorites is his duet with Kimmie Rhodes "Love Me Like a Song"
posted by soelo at 9:57 AM on September 4, 2014

I like his really old TV appearances.

I like to think this is before he busted loose, just maybe. But probably he was pretty free even then.

Darkness on the Face of the Earth
posted by surplus at 4:09 PM on September 23, 2014

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