One of my favorite people in the Universe turns 80 today. I know it’s impractical, but I kind of think we should all just stop whatever we’re doing and pay tribute to the natural wonder, the force of nature that is Willie Nelson.
Even if you don’t think much of his music, you’ve got to respect the man. Willie refuses to be contained. He still tours the country in buses that run on biodiesel fuel. He still plays at the annual Farm Aid benefit for family farmers. He still challenges himself musically and artistically, even though he could just coast on his musical laurels. And he still gets pulled over and charged with possession. I don’t use anything stronger than a glass of wine once in a while, but I respect a guy who sticks to his guns about marijuana the way Willie has. (Paul McCartney already wussed out and admitted he doesn’t toke up anymore, so Willie and Tom Petty are among the few mainstream rebels I can think of that still stand by pot. And I’m not so sure about TP these days. Politically, I’m all for legalizing pot; there are proven and suspected medicinal benefits, and the tax revenue would be really helpful.) There has never been anyone like Willie Nelson, and there are very few musicians with such broad appeal. When he was forced to auction off his property and memorabilia to pay the IRS, his fans came to the auction to buy his stuff, just so they could give it back to him. Just about everyone likes something about the man and his work.
My own personal favorite is his collaboration with Wynton Marsalis from a few years ago. They got on stage at Lincoln Center with a full jazz orchestra, and played a concert of standards. It is one of those amazing, essential albums. I heard it, and knew that my life would not be complete unless I owned it. Not my music collection. My life. This is music that feeds the soul. I love it. And I’d like to thank trumpet00617 for posting this concert to YouTube. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I do.
Pay special attention to the battered guitar that Willie plays. He said in an interview once that he would retire when it finally became unplayable. So light a candle, burn some incense, and pray to whatever gods you think might be listening that that old guitar holds it together forever.