Willie Nelson, one of the greatest living Texans, turns 75 today. Wherever sons and daughters of the Lone Star state find themselves today, let them lift their ice-cold longnecks high in honor of the gentleman from Abbott.
In a state that has produced more than its share of legendary American musicians, perhaps no Texan is as artistically consequential as Willie Hugh Nelson, whose grandmother taught him to play the guitar.
Beyond his peerless artistic legacy to the state and the nation, there is Willie’s status as a cultural icon â€“ indeed, the iconic Texan of our time, beloved by all. Despite his eccentric political opinions, his tax problems and his marijuana busts, if you harbor hardness in your heart towards Willie Nelson, that says more about you than it does Willie.
Willie Nelson is like Louis Armstrong, a deeply American artist whose simplicity, decency and generosity of spirit, conveyed in a voice as clear and sweet as branch water, illuminates the finer parts of our common humanity. Speaking in the current issue of Texas Monthly, Austin singer-songwriter Bobby Earl Smith has this to say about Red-Headed Stranger, Willie’s visionary breakthrough 1975 album that assured his place in music history: “It’s got that mysterious quality that you kind of feel the meaning of more than you can say what it’s all about.”
What’s true of the songs is true of the singer. It’s hard to say what Willie Nelson is about, but it’s easy to say this: Willie Nelson is Texas. With his old, battered heart and Trigger, his old, battered guitar, he makes us all â€“ rednecks, hippies and the whole Lone Star lot â€“ proud to be from here. Good Texans honor Willie Nelson on this milestone because he has honored them with his music and with his life.