I love Willie Nelson and it’s a love affair that’s gone on for much of my 4 decades of life. My earliest memories were of listening to his records on my dad’s old record player. This was back in the heyday of vinyl and long before cassettes and CD’s. My dad had a wonderful collection of records and my favorites were always Willie. I’m sad to say I’ve never been able to see him in concert (yet!) but I find myself coming back to his music time and again because it’s music that speaks to you and tells a story. It’s the song of the everyman and music for everyone regardless of what genre they relate most to. So when I saw this book one day pop up on one of my feeds, I knew I had to read it. And I am really glad that I did. If you have ever wondered where the inspiration to some of his most memorable songs came from, this is the place to find it. If you have ever wondered where Willie came from and what makes him the person he is today, read this book. I recommend it not only to anyone who loves Willie Nelson, but to anyone who just wants to read a good story about a man and his music.
The most wonderful aspect of this book is how it’s told. You feel like you’re sitting in a room with Willie and he’s just telling you his story. It’s unvarnished and a bit rough around the edges, the language is a bit coarse, but the result is an authentic tale of a man, his guitar and the music that they make together. Through the good times and the bad, the unfailing and unwavering faith and optimism are infectious. If only everyone lived their life a little more like Willie, the world would be a much happier place.
Willie Nelson is a restless troubadour, wandering around this world spreading his music along the way. He inherited his wanderlust from his parents who left Willie and his sister Bobbie with their grandparents to wander the open road. But there is no bitterness toward his parents, quite the opposite. He had a very loving relationship with both his parents throughout his life and they were always there for him in their own way. His grandmother was his rock, that is easy to see. Raised in a religious home and raised with music ever present, it’s not difficult to see why music is such an integral part of his life. From small Abbott, Texas you follow Willie from coast to coast and back again as he tries to find his place in the world of record producers, songwriters, contracts and royalties. Hoping that one of his songs will strike gold and he’ll be able to really make a living off his pickin’ and singin’.
Willie talks openly of his failures, his lean times, the times where he didn’t have two nickels to rub together but he had a song in his head and the open road ahead of him. Somehow, he always found a way and it seems like the less he plans, the better it turns out to be! He is unflinchingly honest about his failings as a husband but you can tell that he loved his wives deeply and even when it didn’t work out, he never had an unkind word to say about any of them. How many of us can say that about our exes? You can feel the deep love that he has for all of his children and he’s very honest about how difficult it probably was for his children growing up with him as a father. He doesn’t go into detail about his family life other than to explain where he was at that particular time in his life and I think it was done out of respect to them. He says as much about his children later in the book. He respects them enough not to tell their story but wants to convey his never ending love for them.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was amazing to watch his slow but steady rise to stardom and to see all of the bumps, hiccups, road-blocks and obstacles that were in his way and how he was able to overcome each and every one of them. The man even took on the IRS! I now have a greater appreciation for his music after having an opportunity to see where these songs came from and how intensely personal the lyrics are. We all find our own meanings in his songs, but having this incredible opportunity to see how they came about was a true gift.
I think this is definitely required reading for any Willie Nelson fan. I will put a caveat here for anyone who doesn’t like coarse language or cringes at the mention of alcohol or drugs. Willie is a big proponent of pot and has been an activist in many causes, but you can tell that this one is near and dear to his heart. But if you don’t like hearing about people talking about pot, well, just skip over those parts!