Released in 1981 as part of the film Honeysuckle Rose, “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” became Willie Nelson’s seventh No. 1 hit. The song remained No. 1 for a week and spent a total of fourteen weeks on the country chart.
It has since been covered by a number of artists, including Bob Dylan and Alison Krauss.
A Bittersweet Reflection On Deep Love And Even Deeper Loss
“Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” is a short and simple song that tells the story of a man who found a woman in need of love and healing, which he was able to give her.
“If you had not have fallen, then I would not have found you. Angel flying too close to the ground. And I patched up your broken wing and hung around a while. Trying to keep your spirits up and your fever down,” the song goes.
However, toward the end of the song, the man sees his “angel” is now much stronger after receiving his love and care. Because of this, he decided to accept if she’ll eventually leave him and carry on her way, even if this will break his heart.
Willie Nelson wrote “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” for the film Honeysuckle Rose, where he played a version of himself. The film was actually a musical drama about a struggling country singer that was raised above guilty pleasure status by its live concert inspired soundtrack.
The origins of this song are a bit murky. Some fans assume the title angel refers to Charlie “Magoo” Tinsley, a very famous member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and Willie Nelson’s friend who died in 1971. However, the singer did not confirm or deny it. The singer would also sometimes give some hints that the song is about his former wife, Connie Koepke.
During live performances, Nelson would also often dedicate the song to his son Billy Nelson, the third child from his first marriage to Martha Matthews. Billy died from suicide in 1991.
Decades later, Nelson revisited the classic song by recording a live version of it with Patty Griffin for his album Songs for Tsunami Relief: Austin to South Asia in 2005. The album was created to aid the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
Watch Willie Nelson’s legendary performance of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” in the video below.