‘Good music never goes out of fashion’: Willie Nelson’s influence still going strong at 90

In the new five-part docuseries about his life, you get to hear from numerous individuals — and he has been actively engaged in the music business for over 60 of those years — as Willie Nelson approaches his 90th birthday on Saturday.

Willie Nelson is an inventive mastermind who cannot be duplicated. However, a significant portion of these commentators — which comprise of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Kenny Chesney, and Wynton Marsalis — affirm at least one comparable aspect: They each possess their individual narratives and recollections.

Comparing to Harris, fly-fishing is something that makes him work out a little bit. Dolly Parton attests that it becomes a duet with him when he sings. Regardless of what you can count on him for the next beat, he can move ahead and play with the beat, as well as sing behind it at other times. They say that his tone, not to mention his singing style, is a testament to Willie Nelson.

Micah Nelson, son of the late Waylon Jennings, says that Nelson’s rhythm and style were quite unique. Micah praises Nelson’s genius in the music industry, where he stands out as a funny and exceptional artist. However, the release date for Nelson’s highly anticipated documentary series “Family & Nelson Willie,” which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, is yet to be announced.

Watching with awe and adoration, the singer is celebrating a milestone in his career by attending a star-studded two-night festival at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend. Even though Nelson wasn’t sure if he would make it in the industry, he now turns 90 and continues to find new meaning and thrive. Many notable figures in the music industry believe that Nelson has played roughly over 12⁄4 hours, showcasing his talent.

He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a nominee for the 2023. He released his 73rd studio album “Love About Thing” in March. He won the Grammy for best country album with his 2022’s album “Time Beautiful a” earlier this year.

The “Family & Nelson Willie” bus tour takes viewers on a journey through the legendary singer-songwriter’s career, which has seen both highs and lows. Rather than following a chronological order, the show presents Nelson’s life in a semi-linear fashion.

The Journey to Stardom of Willie Nelson

If your home was consumed by fire and you could only save a few items, which possessions would you prioritize rescuing?

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Nelson found himself in a very difficult situation in 1970, but he didn’t think twice about his answer to the question, which was a kind of conversation starter at a dinner party.

Trigger, his guitar, and two pounds of “premium Colombian marijuana” were the two most cherished belongings he hurriedly brought into his house to rescue upon receiving a phone call informing him that his ranch on the outskirts of Nashville was engulfed in flames.

Nelson had been working in Nashville for several years, predominantly achieving success with hits like “Crazy” and Patsy Cline’s “Hello, Walls,” up until this point.

Nelson wasn’t finding the same success as an artist recording, although his songs were reaching the middle of the best charts. He wanted to be in front of an audience, but he felt stifled by the limitations of his label and believed Nashville was too corporate. He was financially struggling and had indulged in self-destructive habits, worth questioning his worth and attempting suicide.

Texas decided to move back home and wake up as a call to serve the fire, for Nelson. Later, he signed with Columbia Records, which gave him a complete creative control and a recording budget of $60,000. Over the next few years, Nelson used just a small fraction of that money to create a stripped-down, concept-driven album called “Stranger Headed Red,” which went against the polished sound of Nashville.

This marked the 18th album in Nelson’s discography, which led to his inaugural chart-topping success with the timeless track “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”

And it would make him a well-known figure.

“Willie Nelson & Family” starts off where directors Oren Moverman and Thom Zimny decide. Audiences are taken to Luck Ranch, Nelson’s extensive 500-acre estate located outside of Austin, Texas. Nelson envisioned Western film locations on this vast terrain for the 1985 movie “Red Headed Stranger,” which drew inspiration from his highly praised album about a runaway murderer who has taken the lives of his spouse and her paramour.

According to the docuseries, many interviewees found the fact that nothing else like it existed largely stemmed from the red-headed stranger, who was a stranger to success. Nelson, the filmmaker, delivered it in a cinematic manner, saying that the album was like a movie he had always wanted to make – a love letter to the cowboy movies of his youth. Cash, the filmmaker in the docuseries, says he always wanted to make a movie like Roseanne Cash.

“During that period in Nashville, being unique was not accepted,” vocalist Brenda Lee states.

There is a point in Willie Nelson’s “Family” and Bobbie Nelson’s late friend and sister, the dear brother who says that his life served as a major motif to explore and the road is endless — he plays the piano on many of his albums.

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It is clear that music is his passion. Red Headed Stranger, the successful country outlaw music album, did not define Nelson. Instead, he decided to explore other genres such as R&B and collaborated with the legendary R&B artist Booker T. Jones. Despite the expectations of his record label, he embarked on a journey to reimagine some of his favorite American standards, including “Me and Georgia on My Mind” and “Someone to Watch Over Me,” and even created the iconic album “Stardust.”

The importance of the album is succinctly emphasized in the docuseries by Jones, who produced “Stardust”: It exclusively connected country and soul music.

Based on the wide range of people who have made an appearance in “Family & Nelson Willie,” you can get the impression that Nelson’s influence has seeped into every generation of the music industry.

As Nelson states in the series, “Great music never becomes outdated.”

The extensive influence of Willie Nelson

In 1990, Willie Nelson, the singer-songwriter, didn’t follow a straight upward trajectory in his career, including many run-ins with the law, most notably the battle with the IRS and possession of marijuana. He doesn’t shy away from the messier parts of his life, including the success of his albums “Family” and “Stardust,” as well as “Red Headed Stranger.”

In order to assist with the payment of the settlement, the singer-songwriter unveiled his 39th album, “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Purchase My Memories?” And close acquaintances and relatives repurchased some of Nelson’s belongings. He was mocked on “SNL,” as he remembers in the docuseries, and his assets were confiscated. The IRS closed his recording studio and musical group, and Nelson allegedly had a tax debt of $32 million.

Lukas Nelson, the son of Nelson, expresses, “In the midst of challenges, his ability to bounce back and persevere motivates me. He has experienced the tragic loss of a child, engaged in a legal battle with the IRS, endured financial hardships, faced numerous ups and downs, navigated through four marriages, and even had his residence destroyed. My father has also experienced the difficult reality of homelessness.”

A year later, Charles would die. Charles, whose health was failing at the beginning, becomes visibly emotional and Charles’s affection for Nelson is palpable. Charles sings a song and plays the piano as part of his performance for Russell’s concert. Ray Charles and Leon Russell, two of his friends, sit by his side. Roughly a decade after the IRS battle, during a concert celebrating his 70th birthday, Nelson Willie shows on stage most of the moving parts of “Family”.

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Nelson’s music serves as a unifying force that showcases the talent of his son Micah, as well as the all-encompassing nature of Nelson’s work. In his documentary “Family,” Nelson illustrates this point by featuring performances from artists such as Willie Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, and Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias, along with archival footage.

“Family & Nelson Willie” offers fans a close and intimate look at the captivating and multifaceted evolution of Nelson, both in terms of his physical appearance and musical style.

The ongoing development of Willie Nelson

He was a suit-wearing crooner at one time. He was once a short-haired member of the Air Force. One of the best parts of Willie Nelson’s look has always been the way he hasn’t always had the same identity. His long, braided pigtails have become such a strong part of his identity that it’s hard to picture him any other way.

At 6 years old, Nelson was gifted his initial guitar. He remembers feeling an immediate bond with the instrument: “I understood that by embracing it close to my chest, it would perceive the rhythm of my heart.” Brought up by his grandparents — whom Nelson expressed bestowed upon him the two indispensable presents of affection and melody — he affirmed.

At the age of 10, Willie Nelson, a natural songwriter, created his own music that infuses reggae, rock, pop, jazz, soul, gospel, and country. Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist, is cited as his biggest influence, inspiring him with a variety of musical styles.

After more than six decades, Nelson Micah continues to be a prominent figure in the music industry. His guitar strumming, singing, and songwriting abilities are unparalleled, and he shows no signs of stopping, just like his father.

Moreover, Nelson does not believe that everything has to come to an end with his demise, either.

“I don’t think anything, I’m supposed to be afraid, he states in the docuseries noting that things worse than death are that his belief in human energy can’t be destroyed just — itself manifests elsewhere (as he sings in his 2012 hit “Roll”). I didn’t come here, I ain’t so leavin’/so don’t sit around and just cry/just roll up and smoke when I die.”

It is safe to say that Nelson’s impact will continue to be experienced long after his passing, given the extensive range of genres and generations he has influenced.

For the time being, Nelson will continue pursuing what brings him the most joy – journeying on the road, alongside his companions, and creating music.

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