Willie Nelson, “Band of Brothers”

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www.cbsnews.com
by:  Jan Crawford.

Music legend Willie Nelson has everyone, young and old, liberal and conservative, singing along.  At 81 years old, Nelson is doing something unheard of: remaining relevant, reports

He still spends about half the year on the road, and now he’s promoting his newest album, Band of Brothers, which recently hit number one on the country charts.

Critics say it’s some of his best, most reflective work in years.

He’s an American original and has a sound like no other — yet his songs tell stories we’ve all felt.

He said he thinks part of his craft, is that people feel like they can relate to his music.

“And I think that’s probably the reason I was put here; to write songs and come out here and sing ’em and play ’em for people,” Nelson said. “And people can hear ’em and relate to what I’m talkin’ about.”

It’s the music that keeps driving him.

“The energy that we get from playin’ and the feedback that we get from people listenin’ to it,” Nelson said. “That’s all good stuff.”

His body of work is extraordinary: 21 number one hits and more than 100 albums — his latest, reached the top of the country charts in June.

He lives life on his terms — with music that somehow puts in words what we wish we could say.

There are songs of heartbreak, like the classic, “Angels Flying too Close to the Ground.”

He has the image of an outlaw, but friends say he is uncommonly kind.

Nelson started on a traditional path in Nashville, but feeling boxed in he went back to his native Texas.

Along the way, the good life became a hard life.

He struggled with drugs, alcohol and marriage.

Songwriting was an escape, but with performing came consequences. When he’s writing his songs, he said it’s like reliving moments in his own life.

“And when you sing ’em every night, I think that’s why a bunch of us got into drugs and alcohol and things so heavy is because when you go out there at night and relive all that B.S. that put you in that place and you have to relive it every — sometimes people can’t handle it,” Nelson said. “And it’s too tough.”

Nelson said cigarettes were too hard on his lungs and drinking made him a little crazy.

So to take the edge off, he turned to pot.

How much does he smoke?

“Oh, I don’t know, as much as I want to,” Nelson said. “A lotta people couldn’t smoke as much as I do. I think I have a pretty good tolerance for it. And it’s a good medicine for me. It’s a good stress reliever.”

He’s been arrested at least four times for marijuana and is an outspoken advocate for legalization.

“I never thought during my lifetime that it would, because it was so hardcore against it in so many places,” Nelson said. “But then it looks like I was wrong.”

The future looks good for pot, he said, and in the meantime, he plans to keep making music.

Nelson said he doesn’t have anything to prove unless it’s “don’t stop.”

“You know, don’t look back,” he added. “They might be gainin’ on you.”

Nelson said he’s thinking about cutting back on some of his touring, but he’s not going to stop writing and making music.

His next album will be released in December.

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