Ain’t it funny how time slips away? Feels like it was just yesterday when singers from all different genres came together for an incredible night of music to celebrate Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday. And now, as we celebrate The Read Head Stranger’s 85th birthday, let’s have a recapture of the countrified journey of our music hero.
An exemplary talent; a good cause
His philanthropic work goes back to 1985. Nelson, along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp, set up Farm Aid to assist and increase awareness of the importance of family farms. Back in 2004, Nelson and his wife, Annie, became partners with Bob and Kelly King in the building of two sustainable bio-diesel plants in Oregon and Texas.
In 2005, Nelson and other business partners branded Willie Nelson Sustainable Bio-diesel. This is a company that markets bio-fuel made from vegetable oil to truck stops. In 2010, Nelson received the Feed the Peace award from The Nobility Project. It’s an appreciation of his extensive work with Farm Aid and overall contributions to world peace. And in 2011, he was inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame for his labor in Farm Aid and other fundraisers to benefit farmers.
Willie Nelson has been an active voice in the drive to ban the slaughter of wild horses. In fact, he has written to Congress in support of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. Also, he is an Honorary Trustee of the Dayton International Peace Museum. More to that, Willie also contributed to the “Occupy This Album” box set that came out in May 2012 in support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Such is the influence of Willie Nelson. His work crosses oceans, genre boundaries, and generation gaps. At 85, Nelson has been in the music business for six decades, written some of the most enduring songs of the 20th century and won nearly every award a songwriter and performer can win. Together with his fellow legends Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings, they brought a new light to country music, called the Outlaw Country. Their group is called The Highwaymen.
Moreover, many artists’ success, have gotten a boost from the laid-back rocker. Not to mention the countless musicians who have covered his songs. “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away?” for instance, has recorded versions by everyone from Elvis Presley to Lyle Lovett. In 1962, Patsy Cline’s version of Willie’s “Crazy” hit #2 country song on the charts.
One of Nelson’s many creative high-water marks and his first real commercial breakthrough came with The Red Headed Stranger. This 1975 concept album was recorded in a small Texas studio on a shoestring budget. Some of the executives at Columbia Records, Nelson’s label at this time, balked at releasing it. (Its raw minimalism, to them, suggested a mere demo record.) Yet it ultimately became the first of many million sellers Nelson would enjoy during the 1970s. From it also came Nelson’s first #1 single, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” ironically not a song written by Nelson but an ethereal version of a 1945 Fred Rose composition.
Until now, we are still amazed every time we watch Shania Twain and Nelson’s duet on “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” During the rendition of the song, Nelson accompanied them on guitar and harmonized during the chorus. Up until this performance, we have never seen Twain sing quite like this and we loved every second of it. Their live performance was part of Nelson’s 83rd birthday in 20013.