Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again is easily one of his top best songs in his decades-long country music career. The song, which became the biggest pop hit during that time and won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Song, was penned by Willie Nelson himself as a soundtrack for his debut film Honeysuckle Rose in 1980. Not to mention that it also earned him a prestigious Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
On The Road Again also has an interesting conception. The lyrics of the song was written in a spur of the moment on an airplane barf bag. While on the flight, the film’s director Jerry Schatzberg and executive producer Sydney Pollack approached him to ask if he had an idea for songs for the movie. When Willie Nelson asked what they wanted the song to say, Pollack asked if it could be something on the road and then it just clicked.
But Nelson put off writing the melody until he went to the studio and recorded the song. In his autobiography released in 1988, he explained that he saw no reason to put a melody to a song that he wasn’t ready to record yet. And he also knew he wouldn’t have any problem pulling the melody out of the air.
While the movie, which was about an aging musician who failed to achieve national fame, was not a successful one, On The Road Again definitely solidified its position in the charts. The song peaked on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and also made its way to the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also ranked number 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It also earned Nelson another number 1 hit in the cross country and western category.
In 2004, it was ranked at number 471 in Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. And then in 2011, the song was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2016, On The Road Again was one of the three country classics honored in the all-star “Forever Country” by the CMA on its 50th anniversary. The other two songs were John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads and Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You.
The song’s popularity also stretched to films and TV series, and you might have probably heard it in South Park, Shrek, Forrest Gump, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run and Dumb and Dumber, and many more.
Just last year, Willie Nelson teamed up with the nominees of the 2020 ACM Awards for new female and male artist for a contemporary version of the classic hit. The single, which was titled On The Road Again (ACM Lifting Lives Edition), benefited the COVID-19 Response Fund. The song was produced by Ross Copperman and Jimmy Robbins and distributed via Warner Music Nashville.
Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again has also been covered by various artists including Alvin & the Chipmunks, Deana Carter, Jerry Reed, Neil Young, and Phish. It has also been covered as parodies. This is one of the Willie Nelson songs that you should definitely listen to. You can listen to the official audio below.