It’s time again for Friday on My Mind, our weekly blog post where we look at videos centered around one common theme. This is a collaborative effort between KEXP and King 5 News.
Earlier this week Willie Nelson celebrated his 80th birthday. 80. Willie Hugh Nelson was born either April 29th or April 30th, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. The discrepancy in date is supposedly because he was born close to midnight, so some sources list Willie’s birth date as April 29. Dude loves pot, so for all we know he was born in November of 1960. He also has a black belt in karate. That’s right, at 80 years old, Willie Nelson can beat you up and all while high. During his lifetime, Willie has served in the Air Force, picked cotton, was a saddle maker and a disc jockey. Also, at different points he was a Bible salesman, vacuum cleaner salesman, and an encyclopedia salesman. Crazy! One night, Willie and Hank Cochran wrote seven songs together in the basement of Willie’s home in Ridgetop, TN. Among the songs was one called “What Can You Do to Me Now?” The next day, Willie got his answer: his house burned down. This prompted Willie moved to Austin and later to Hawaii. So the man knows how to make the best of a bad situation. In November 1990, the IRS presented Willie with a bill for $16.7 million in back taxes. This resulted in almost all of his assets being taken from him. This included several houses, studios, farms, and other properties. To help pay his bill, he released the double album The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? America failed here. We should have just looked at his debt and said out loud to no one, “Yeah but it’s Willie Nelson” and tore up the IOU. Originally released as two separate albums, the records were marketed through television commercials, and all the profits were directed to the IRS.
By the time he hit his 60th birthday in 1993, he had paid off all his debts. He also released the Tex-Mex style “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other,” a song about gay cowboys, as a digital single through the iTunes Music Store on Valentine’s Day 2006. This wasn’t too long after the release of the Ang Lee film Brokeback Mountain, which featured Nelson on the movie soundtrack. He deadpans his way through the song, with such phrases as “What did you think all them saddles and boots was about?” and “Inside every cowboy there’s a lady who’d love to slip out.” The song was written and first recorded more than twenty years previously by musicologist/songwriter Ned Sublette and had also been covered, prior to Nelson’s version, by queercore band Pansy Division.
He also has a sense of humor. Here is footage from earlier this week of Willie auditioning for the role of Gandolf Hobbit from the Conan O’Brien Show:
Willie continues to be a crusader for liberal rights and the plight of the farmers and all while getting really really high every day. So let’s celebrate the man and take a look at some of his music:
Willie Nelson - Crazy
Here is Willie performing the song “Crazy”, which he wrote, but was made famous by Patsy Cline. He’s rocking the song while wearing a Mr. Rogers sweater. This is not the Willie we have all come to know and love, which is part of what makes this footage all the more enjoyable.
Willie Nelson - Rainbow Connection
Willie’s take on the song made famous by Kermit and The Muppet Movie back in 1979. Willie recorded his version in 2001 and even released an album under the same name.
Willie Nelson - Always On My Mind
“Always On My Mind” was not written by Willie, and was originally recorded by Brenda Lee in 1971, but it is one of the most recognizable in his repertoire. The Country Music Association named this Single Of The Year for 1982. It also won Grammys for Song Of The Year, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song, making it the first Country song to take Song Of The Year. From a 1982 performance. Classic Willie.
Willie Nelson - Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Performed in 1980 during an episode of the music variety show Midnight Special. He gets introduced by The Captain and Tennille.
Willie Nelson - The Harder They Come
Willie does his take on Jimmy Cliff’s “The Harder They Come”.
Willie Nelson - Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
Did I mention the dude loves pot?
You can wish Wille Nelson a happy 80th birthday on his website, where you can also see his friends like Neil Young, Steven Tyler, Elvis Costello, Billy Gibbons and many others do the same. In fact, here’s Jim James wishing Willie a happy 80th: