Have you ever seen Willie Nelson? I don't think there's another man on the planet that looks like Willie Nelson. That is a face which has seen some shit, if you know what I mean. And yet it smiles. It smiles this twinkling smile, like a stone-carved Santa Claus from some alternate universe. . . . It's stoned, all right. I suppose that Willie Nelson has set some sort of record for cannabis ingestion. I don't know him personally, but I'll bet you he smokes that stuff every day, all day long.
What's a portrait of Willie Nelson on a perfect day? It's a fresh Spring morning, with just the hint of a bud on the azaleas. He's got his hair in braids, a huge spliff is sitting on the back of his personal golf cart, and he's just hit a nice little fading 5-wood to a green 195 yards away, on his personal golf course. And he's just told his playing partners the story of when he and Waylon Jennings first met. They’re laughing their asses off.
Willie Nelson was born on April 30, 1933, in Abbot, TX. That makes him older than anyone on this web site, if I am not mistaken. You will most likely not be grinning like Willie Nelson does when you reach his chronological age. Not that this is an endorsement of any form of illegal drug. In fact, I don't think it's the drug at all that accomplishes this. Willie Nelson has more sense than your normal country music artist. Unlike Johnny Cash, he would not sing a song for several years without even knowing what it "meant."
He worked in bands when he was young; mostly the Western Swing bands around where he lived. And he worked as a door-to-door salesman when he wasn't playing music. He also had his own radio show by the time he was graduating from high school. Yeah, he had two jobs at one time before he even got out of high school. Can you lazy bastards imagine that? (Sorry. That was not meant for any one person here; just a generation of slackers in general.)
By 1959, Willie Nelson had been married, fathered two kids, divorced, and was writing songs. He didn't make much money on these until "Night Life." Have you ever heard that song? It's wonderful.
The night life
Ain't no good life
But it's my life.
There have been thousands of drunks walking streets late at night, all over the world, singing those lines in the dark, to no one.
He moved to Nashville and sold a couple of songs to Patsy Cline (Crazy) and Faron Young ("Hello, Walls"). This kept him shitting in high cotton for a while, and he enjoyed Nashville during this time. However, his appearance was always a drawback when he tried to perform his songs himself. He just didn't fit the mold of what those big shots in Nashville wanted in a country music star. So he moved back to Texas in 1970, and that's when he began to record his stuff himself. His Red Headed Stranger in 1975 brought him some attention when it hit the charts. By 1978, he was getting acting roles in both Hollywood films and television. A face that had been laughable in Nashville had become popular to America at large. Who couldn't love that face, anyway?
I really didn't know Willie Nelson until I first heard "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" off of Red Headed Stranger, the year when it came out. Then my old friend, the Runnin' Boy, and I learned some of Willie Nelson's songs and began to play them. These are some moving pieces of music, and they come from a place in American history that's often overlooked. Hank Williams was onto it. So is Willie Nelson. There's a nostalgic, lonely happiness that's a part of this part of the country. It'll put that certain smile on your face, if you can live through it.
What would Willie Nelson like to say to you? Let me see if I can channel him. . . .
"Fuck the IRS."