Willie Nelson Speaks out for Peace (12/26/90)


by Mary Jacoby

Willie Nelson has a message for the world.  And no, it’s not about the  $16.7 million in back taxes he owes the Internal Revenue Service, friends say.

“This concerns something infinitely more important.  It’s about possibly saving human lives,” said the country superstar’s friend and aide, Bob Wishoff.  “His message is peace.”

But you’ll have to send a blank cassette tape and a self-addressed stamped envelope to hear it.  In return, Wishoff will dub you a copy of Nelson performing a previously unreleased song he wrote in response to the vietnam War, Jimmy’s Road.

The song frames a 10-minute reading by Nelson and daughters Lana and Susie, of Mark Twain’s anti-war essay, “The War Prayer.”  Twain wrote “The War Prayer” in 1905 but, afraid of public reaction to its anti-war sentiments, did not publish the essay during his lifetime.

The impetus behind Nelson’s offer is the crisis in the Persian Gulf that could become a war if Iraqi President Saddam Husseim does not pull his troops out of Kuwait by Jan. 15.

More than 20 years ago, Nelson wrote Jimmy’s Song as a more personal anti-war statement.  Austin-area resident David Zettner, who played bass in Nelson’s band, was drafted to fight in Vietnam.  It was an event that made a great impression on the bandleader, Wishoff said. 

“Willie saw that David just wanted to play music.  He didn’t want to kill anybody,” Wishoff said, “So he wrote the song about it.”

Now, the singer hopes people will copy the free tape for their friends and pass it along like a chain letter, Wishoff said.  “He wants to foster a grass-roots awareness and a forum” for peace issues, he said.

Nelson recorded the song and essay in Hawaii.

“A friend of his showed him the (Twain) essay a couple of weeks ago, and he thought this was something important that should be distributed.  So he contacted me and had me start modeming and faxing the news out all over the world,” Wishoff said.

“When someone comes up with a good idea, he’ll jump on it.”  Now Wishoff works night and day to distribute the tape before the Jan. 15 deadline.

“I stayed up untill three and four in the morning a couple nights, waiting to get access to computer boards,” he said.  Wishoff, an employee of the Pedernales Film Company of which Nelson is a partner, has posted news of Nelson’s offer on computer bulletin boards across the United States and Europe.

“I modem to these places, and people are kind of astounded by it.  They’re astounded that a celebrity would use (the internet boards) too,” said Wishoff, who received a facsimile expressing support for Nelson’s project from Glasgow, Scotland, after sending a computer message to a board in that city.

Today Wishoff said he plans to distribute copies of the tape to local television and radio stations.

Nelson returns to Austin in early January to film the television movie Another Pair of Aces.

“People have only been hearing about Wille’s tax troubles lately.  But there’s not a whole lot he can do.  I don’t think he’s thinking much about it.  But he can do something to” try to stop a war, Wishoff said.

For a free copy of the tape, send a blank cassette and self-addressed stamped envelope to:  Jimmy’s Road, c/o….

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