1. Roll Me up and Smoke me when I Die
I first went through the whole post and put different videos in for each song before I added the CMT link which doesn’t actually appear in video form on this blog. Like links of yesteryear, you actually have to click the link which brings you to the site for this hour long concert in the Country Music Television’s Crossroads series. Someone suggested to my brother a while back that we had too many videos and not enough writing so here’s a post for you faithful reader. The above jam also links back to a certain post my brother wrote about Willie’s favorite sacrament. I agree with much of what the Elder J said, but at Nelson’s advanced age, I think he can do whatever. Snoop Dogg?
I love old country music and especially Willie Nelson. Recently, Jack White hosted an 80th birthday party for the Red Headed stranger at his Third Man Studios in Nashville. I’d feel really cool if I got to host a party for one of the most endearing music stars of the last century and you can tell Jack does so maybe our old friend was right about the dude. Anyway, here are some of the other songs that worth a listen and stories of Willie. I hope to just be upright when and if i get to 80, so if I also am playing bass, I’ll consider myself a happy man.
2. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Willie grew up poor in Texas and started playing music in the church at a young age. His life has had extreme ups and downs from problems with the bottle to multiple failed marriages and many setbacks in the music industry that have left him on his ass broke more than once. I learned of his story from a book I’ve read three times called The Tao of Willie Nelson. It covers many topics while also giving a life story of a man so many know of but few actually know about.
The singer Ashley Monroe really nails this song and gracefully makes up for some of Willie’s vocal issues with her polished yet raw voice. My good female friend who teaches art said this singer is an up and coming country star who sings of typically country taboo topics like pot use and trailer park angst. I’ll be listening. Willie’s voice may be finally catching up with his age, but his guitar picking is still right on point. Many aren’t aware of his gypsy jazzy acoustic guitar licks and it’s always a welcome surprise.
3. Long May you Run
Neil Young is tied, with Hank William’s Sr, as my favorite song writer ever. This happy yet sad ode to an old car of Neil’s fits nicely as a tribute to his long time friend Willie Nelson. They have participated together in Farm Aid for many years and were both founders of that continually growing and beneficial annual event. This song and their performance really shows their closeness and how after so many years of hard living, both men are doing relatively well heath wise. I think I’d lean still towards Neil as my favorite songwriter ever, but Willie Nelson is right there.
4. Shotgun Willie
Willie performed this song with Jamey Johnson, an excellent younger country player of today’s era, on the show but I found this ill cover by my man Lucky Tubb. It’s been almost a year since we saw and hung out with Lucky and it doesn’t look like his tour will bring him this way again at least not this time of year. It’s too bad, however, I have a strong feeling he will be back around soon and our paths will cross again. What a show and what a cover.
I wrote almost a year ago about seeing Lucky Tubb and it was awesome to find this tune. Before this show, I don’t think I ever heard this song. It’s a very pleasant surprise and the Jamey Johnson version is awesome so definitely check it out among those other links I made to the CMT website. This track comes from the same titled album and is the first one he did for Atlantic records. He actually was the first artist on the label’s country music division after being signed by Jerry Wexler whom he impressed at a house party in Austin. Willie never had good luck in Nashville due to the eclectic nature of his music, bringing forth tastes of rock, blues, jazz, gospel and good old honky tonk. It was a rigid system at the time that wanted country music one way or not at all. He was 39 in 1973 when this album came out and it was one of his first big crossovers that would lead to the stardom he deserved.
The song is rooted in fact; a man one of Willie’s many daughters was seeing was reported to have physically abused her. Most likely fueled by whiskey since he was still a drinking man in the early seventies, he piled into a truck with a close friend and went to the man’s house where he fought him and told him he’d kill him if the aggressor ever laid a finger on his daughter again. The woman beating man and his brothers followed Willie home and began plinking at his house with .22 caliber rifles which prompted Nelson to blast back with a shotgun. Eventually, Willie shot their truck with an M1 Garand and the men finally surrendered. To this day, I wouldn’t recommend messing with any of his many family members because country boys always take care of their own.
5. A Song for You
It’s also been about a year since I saw Leon Russell, the Master of Space and Time. This is one of our most read posts and a proud moment for me because one of his former guitarists made a comment back and re-posted it. These two have had their paths cross countless times since they started playing music, even making a few records together here and there. Both of these artists are not only some of my all-time favorites, but integrally important to American popular music as a whole for the last six decades. Between Leon’s countless collaborations as a studio musician and solo artist and the same output from Willie, they have literally made a blueprint for popular music in a slew of genres. The fact that they are still making music and playing together after so long is a testament both to their will and the power of music.
6. On the Road Again
I also hate that Kid Rock is in this video but I wanted at least have a few videos to break up the lack thereof. Many people at the dive bars I once frequented will argue with me endlessly that he is a solid artist and I should give him a try. No matter how many times I hear this, I can’t get over the scary kids screaming along with “Bawitaba” in middle school. I am sure he can put on a show and is well spoken from time to time.
This is Willie’s classic song and one that gets played every time he plays a show, which is an impressive number per year considering his age. After years of success, this song was written in conjunction with a movie he was in called Honeysuckle Rose and became a giant hit. Just a few years later, Willie got hit with a major tax case where he had to do a whole tour and album just to pay his back taxes. That was more than two decades ago now and it seems like his reputation as one of America’s most loved and prolific artists has only grew.
From his rural beginnings to his outlaw country days to his twilight years as one of the best, Willie Nelson has rolled with the punches and come out on top again and again. It really is inspirational to see all of his pitfalls and ascents time after time. Read his books, buy his albums, and go see him live while you still can. He’d love to see ya, could probably use your money with all the family he’s accrued and you will be glad you did. Willie Nelson IS American Music and his name will ring out for generations.