Around midnight tonight, Willie Nelson — my favorite musician — turns 80 years old. It would probably take me until his 81st birthday to enumerate the reasons I love and admire Willie. So I’ll stop at three:
1) The band you see with Willie in the 39-year-old video above is largely the same band he has today, and that includes his older sister, Bobbie. Can you imagine the mutual love and trust and appreciation and loyalty that keeps a group of human beings so close for so long?
2) My dad turned me on to him, with the Waylon & Willie, Red Headed Stranger, and Phases and Stages albums he left behind when he died when I was 8. Dad didn’t have an unerring taste in music, but he got Willie right, and each time I listen to “Hands on the Wheel,” I appreciate the musical connection to my father.
3) I adore the story of how the musical influences Willie accumulated while growing up in Central Texas and the bonds he forged with those he made music for and with sustained him through years of underappreciation in Nashville — and ultimately made him an unimaginably huge and beloved cultural figure after he came home to Bobbie and Texas. I think Willie Nelson’s story would be a marvelous one for a picture book biography.
And, yes, I’m working on it.