He was born in the Great Depression, made his name with Outlaw Country and smoked out Snoop Dogg in The Dam. Willie Nelson may be 80 next week, but he’s still the coolest man in music. Here’s a few reasons why:
FIVE DECADES AND COUNTING
"Nothing says America like the man that's gonna play”
That’s how Jack White introduced Willie at a birthday bash last week and he’s got a point. Willie has churned out more than 2,500 songs and released close to 300 albums. He has won multiple awards, including countless Grammys and has plenty to boast about including duets with Ray Charles, Ringo Starr, Frank Sinatra, Neil Young and Snoop Dog. He formed The Highway Men with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash in the ‘80s and was probably stoned when he thought a sing-along with Julio Iglesias made sense. Patsy Cline’s country classic, ‘Crazy’, is one of his and he’s still touring in between playing festivals with young un’s like The Black Keys.
HE FOUGHT THE TAX MAN WITH HIS FANS
When Willie got into tax trouble, his fans were there to bail him out. After the IRS hit the country crooner in 1990 with a bill for $32 million in unpaid back taxes, Willie had to hand over many of his possessions to stay out of prison. But in a bit of quick thinking, he released an album highlighting his plight entitled: The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories? His fans took the title literally, snapping up his items at auction before handing them back over to Willie. By 1993, Nelson was able to settle his tab and bring his favourite guitar, Trigger, out of hiding.
HE PULLED OFF GINGER PIGTAILS FOR YEARS
Before they came up with something worse, Willie settled his own nickname by calling his ‘75 classic, The Red Headed Stranger and lived up to it for more than three decades with waist-deep, red braids. He chopped them off a few years ago, but still rocks it better than most octogenarians with a bob.
HE'S A DIE-HARD TOKER
After his lung collapsed in the early ’80s, Willie was faced with a choice of giving up cigarettes or weed; he took the toker’s road and has been trying to get it legal every since. After his arrest for possession of marijuana in 2010, Nelson created the Tea Pot party under the motto "Tax it, regulate it and legalize it!"
He once smoked a joint on the roof of Jimmy Carter’s White House and released a number called “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” on 420 day last year featuring Snoop Dogg who claimed on Twitter that the “only person that every smoked me out is willie mothafuckn nelson!!!”
When his eight-foot, one-ton bronze statue was unveiled on Willie Nelson Boulevard last year, Willie said with a smile: “I’ll be stoned 1,000 years.”
HE'S A LOVER, NOT A FIGHTER
Willie’s big on causes. He started a biodiesel company about a decade ago and uses biodiesel to fuel his tour buses when he’s not using solar power at home. He’s also a co-founder, with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, of the long-running Farm Aid program, which holds annual concerts to raise money to help family farms. He also helped out the gay community by backing same sex marriage in a Texan magazine and when he’s not saving horses, he’s big on family. It’s the name of his backing band which he formed with his sister, Bobbie in ’73 and his sons, Micah and Lukas aren’t embarrassed to join him on stage now.
HE'S BEEN ON THE SIMPSONS
Willie’s music has appeared on no less than 165 soundtracks and he’s also popped up a good few times on screen, making his debut in The Electric Horseman, finding a name for his tour bus in Honeysuckle Rose and raking up a stream of acting credits before he was big enough to be a guest on Miami Vice and The Simpsons.
TOP TEN WILLIE NELSON
1. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" (1975)
2. "If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time" (1976)
3. "Good Hearted Woman" (1976)
4. "I Can Get Off On You" (1978)
5. "Blue Skies" (1978)
6. "Heartbreak Hotel" (1979)
7. "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" (1980)
8. "On the Road Again" (1980
9. “Nothing I Can Do About It Now" (1989)
10. "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die." (2012)