In 2015, Willie Nelson was honored at the Gershwin Prize Awards Ceremony, and two of his friends took the stage to pay homage to him with one of his most beloved songs, “Seven Spanish Angels.”

Holding back the tears, the country legend was clearly filled with emotion as he watched Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson perform his famous duet with the legendary Ray Charles. The incredible performers pay homage to Nelson’s astounding legacy in this once-in-a-lifetime performance.

Presented by the Library of Congress, the evening was dedicated to celebrate Willie Nelson’s sixty-year career and his selection as the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in Washington, D.C.

One Of The Saddest Country Songs Of All Time

Written by Troy Seals and Eddie Setser, “Seven Spanish Angels” tells the tale of an outlaw and his lover who were trying to outrun a posse of bounty hunters attempting to bring them back to Texas. Eventually, they were found and were cornered that they decided to fight the approaching lawmen.

Before the final gunfight, the two embrace, speaking of their belief that God will spare them. The gunfight then started, with the outlaw firing upon the posse. He was immediately shot and killed, prompting his distressed lover to pick up his rifle. She tearfully prayed, “Father, please forgive me; I can’t make it without my man.” She purposely pointed the empty weapon at the lawmen and was then shot dead. 

After each death, the titular angels gather to pray for the lovers. “There were seven Spanish angels at the altar of the sun. They were prayin’ for the lovers in the valley of the gun. When the battle stopped, and the smoke cleared, there was thunder from the throne, and seven Spanish angels took another angel home,” the song goes.

Songwriter Troy Seals said that they “tried to make [the story] ethereal but also believable.” He also revealed that that the song was written as a homage to the Tejano flavored classic hits of Marty Robbins exemplified by Robbins’ career record “El Paso.” However, Robbins already died when they finished the song.

“Seven Spanish Angels” was then successfully pitched to Willie Nelson. But before he was able to record it, producer Billy Sherrill happened to hear the demo and proposed that Nelson and Ray Charles duet on the song, and they did.

Nelson and Charles released “Seven Spanish Angels” in 1984 as the first single from Nelson’s album, Half Nelson, and a single from Charles’ album Friendship. The song spent one week at No. 1 and a total of twelve weeks on the country chart and marked as the most successful song Charles ever put out on the country charts.

So it was no longer a surprise when Nelson got emotional watching Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss performing his famous duet with Charles. This collaboration is absolutely one of the most emotional renditions ever to be brought to the stage. Watch Johnson and Krauss’s incredible performance below.