Happy Birthday Willie Nelson

by: Scott Bernstein

Outlaw country music legend Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas on this date in 1933. The 85-year-old icon continues his prolific ways despite a few recent health scares. Willie released his latest studio album, Last Man Standing, this past Friday and has a full slate of live performances ahead.

In 1985, Willie teamed with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to organize a benefit concert for family farmers they dubbed “Farm Aid.” The event has been held each year since and has raised over $50 million for its mission of helping “family farmers thrive all over the country while inspiring millions of people to take part in the Good Food Movement.” Sets from The Red Headed Stranger and Neil Young have each been staples of the annual concerts ever since the first Farm Aid. Celebrate Willie’s 85th birthday with this week’s Sunday Cinema compilation featuring five collaborations between the pair that took place at past Farm Aid benefit concerts:

Our first Willie and Neil collaboration took place at Farm Aid 1995, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky on October 1, 1995. In this video, Nelson and harmonica wiz Mickey Raphael add to Young’s stunning rendition of “Heart Of Gold” off Neil’s famed Harvest LP:

In 1985, Willie Nelson issued an album of duets cleverly titled Half Nelson. Neil Young’s contribution to the LP was the slow-paced “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” Willie and Neil have performed the song together a handful of times including a version in Bristow, Virginia on September 17, 2016. Young recruited Willie’s sons Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson as well as the rest of Promise Of The Real to back the pair:

“Four Strong Winds,” a staple of Young’s Farm Aid sets over the years, was performed by Neil and Willie in Ames, Iowa on April 24, 1993. Canadian folk artist Ian Tyson originally wrote the song, which Neil Young recorded for 1978’s Comes A Time just a few years after he played “Four Strong Winds” backed by The Band at The Last Waltz. Neil wasn’t sure if Willie was familiar with the tune in the video below, but told Nelson “you can play anything!” The Red Headed Stranger added pretty harmonies to Young’s rendition:

Neil Young and Willie Nelson were joined by fellow Farm Aid Board Members John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews on “Homegrown” in Milwaukee on October 2. Nelson throws in a frenetic solo on his trusty guitar Trigger as part of the wild finale of Young’s set:

Willie Nelson is one of many artists who has interpreted “Moonlight In Vermont,” a song that dates back to 1994. John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf penned the unofficial anthem of The Green Mountain State, which has also been performed by Frank Sinatra, John Scofield, Mel Torme and a host of others. For the finale, watch Willie Nelson lead Neil Young, Phish and Paul Shaffer on “Moonlight In Vermont” in Tinley Park, Illinois on October 3, 1998:

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