Corpus Christi Time
by Danny Goddard
Wih a voice like a well-worn saddle, Willie Nelson has evolved from his early Nashville roots into one of the consumate pop vocalists of the second half of the century.Â His songs of melancholy loneliness and lighthearted good times strike a universal chord.
Beginning with “Whiskey River,” he sang a half dozen of his most notable tunes — “Shotgun Willie,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “If You’ve Got the Money Honey I’ve Got the Time” and before the night was over, he had sung nearly 30 of his hits.
If he had never heard a country song, Nelson could haveÂ been famous singing the blues or pop songs.Â His version of “Blue Skies” and “Georgia On My Mind” together were worth the price of admission.
All through the concert, devoted fans risked the wrath of security guards to toss roses and expensive-looking cowboy hats on the stage for their bearded, pig-tailed idol.Â Nelson obliged them by wearing several different hats, just as he tried on a variety of musical styles.
The crowd came alive when he got to “Bloody Mary Morning” which featured Nelson playing an extended jam on his battered guitar.Â “On the Road Again” propelled people to their feet in jarring contrast to the heartfelt “Always On My Mind” which followed.
Nelson left the artificial attitudes and macho posturing of most country music behind when he moved back to Texas.Â Obviously he never left completely; no Southern boy ever does.Â While he has travelled far, his has never been far from his wooden church upbringing in a dusty Texas hamlet.Â Now he is a firm believer in reincarnation.Â He believes everyone returns to earth periodically until the subject acquires enough knowledge to move on to another realm.Â “I look at the earth like it’s a university.Â We have certain lessons to learn.Â If we learn, we move on to other positions in the universe,” he said.Â To other places, to other duties.Â Ultimately we gain a state of perfection.Â Â Meanwhile, anyone who returns to earth is back here because he did not learn enough on the previous trip.Â So some poeple are in the 1st grade and others are in the 3rd.”
“You have 15 minutes before you go on,” an aide broke in.Â Nelson waves him away and wanted to talk more about Dixie religion.Â
“Ever miss the old hymns?” I ask.Â
“Yeah, I remember them,” he said.Â Remember one called ‘Tell Me the Story of Jesus'”? he asked.Â “That was my grandmother’s favorite,” I said.Â So we sang two verses.
He wanted to sing some more, but his aide kept urging that it was time to go onstage.
“So what is the South to you in one sentence,” I asked.
Nelson looked off a moment. “It is the music and the religion, of course.Â And it is also the land.Â The land in Texas where I grew up had such scarcity and vastness.Â It taught me not to be afraid, to know you can do anything you want to do.”
Not to be afraid to do anything you want to do, even be a superstar…Â He walked on stage amid the vast roar…