Willie Nelson, “Vote ’em Out”

“The biggest gun we’ve got
Is called the ballot box.
So if you don’t like who’s in there
Vote ’em out.”

— Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson’s new single VOTE ‘EM OUT.   Available now:

https://willienelson.lnk.to/vote

www.post-gazette.com
by:  Randy Lewis

Like many celebrities, Willie Nelson is doing his bit to motivate fans to participate in the upcoming midterm elections.

But with his latest song, the veteran Texas maverick musician and country outlaw isn’t serving up some soft-sell public service announcement.

“If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ’em out,” he sings in the appropriately titled “Vote ’Em Out.” “That’s what Election Day is all about.”

The idea, he said, came to him in the course of talking with young people at a benefit for March for Our Lives in Maui in spring, where he performed with a longtime friend, singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, and several other musicians.

“It was right after the Florida shootings, and a lot of young people out there were doing protests against the guns and all the lobbying and everything, and so we did this benefit over there,” Mr. Nelson, 85, said on his tour bus this week while in Hollywood to tape a segment for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” scheduled to air Tuesday.

“I was talking to the kids about well, you know, if you see something you don’t like out there, you vote ’em out of it,” he said. “I started thinking about it — It took about three minutes to write the whole thing.”

It’s aimed at all Americans, Mr. Nelson said, but he’s particularly focused on the population of young people who will vote for the first time next month.

“There’s a group of folks coming up to vote that ain’t never voted before, and they are very excited about it,” he said. “I think all the activity on both sides of the parties up there have shook ’em up a little bit. They’re saying, ‘Well, maybe we’re important,’ and, of course they are, and they’re going to go out there and prove it, I think.”

A few minutes later, backstage just after performing “Vote ‘Em Out!” for his segment on the show, Mr. Nelson met and spoke with Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was among the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — an emotional meeting for all concerned during which Mr. Nelson and Mr. Kimmel thanked Mr. Guttenberg for his activism.

“It don’t take aim at anybody,” Mr. Nelson said. “Whether you’re on one side or the other, whoever you want to vote in or out, it’s something to talk about. If you like who’s in there, leave ’em in. I think it’s important now to take a stand and vote.”

Mr. Nelson’s politics, however, are no secret.

He introduced the song a few weeks ago at a political rally in Texas for U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. Such politicking, however, isn’t something Mr. Nelson typically does at his own shows.

“My shows are as nonpolitical as you can get,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a Christian, an atheist, a Baptist or Methodist. I don’t care who you are or what you are: If you like our music, that’s cool. Come on out. We’re not going to bore you with politics. But right at this particular time, I think it might be a good time to say something.”

One reason Mr. Nelson avoids delving deeply into political issues at his shows is that he sees music as a unifying force in this era of extreme divisiveness and political partisanship.

“I’ve always believed that music was the equalizer, you know?” he said. “Everyone can relate to music. You don’t have a choice. Once you hear the melody and the words, it goes right into your soul, and you either like it or hate it, turn it on or turn it off, but you can’t ignore it.”

Some projects close to Mr. Nelson’s heart involve political issues. Those include the annual Farm Aid benefit shows in support of family farmers who struggle to survive in the age of agribusiness, and his budding operation selling medicinal and recreational marijuana under the brand name Willie’s Reserve. But he leaves the political dimensions of those operations to others.

“It’s something they have to deal with. I don’t have to deal with [anything],” he said.

Leave a Reply