Willie Nelson: 4 reasons why we love him; 20 songs we’ll never forget

(Suzanne Cordeiro)

HOUSTON – Country music icon Willie Nelson’s birthday is April 29, 1933. To honor that day and the man he is, here are just some of the reasons we love him and the music he makes.

Here are four reasons why it’s hard not to love him:

1. He has a heart for his home state of Texas and for working people

Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas on April 29, 1933. His love for the small-town Texan has abided throughout his life, but was brought to the fore in 1985 when he, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985. The event was to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on the land, according to the Farm Aid website. Farm Aid has reportedly raised $60 million to promote a family farm system of agriculture. Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to keep family farmers on the land.

2. His music is diverse and well-written

If you haven’t listened to Willie in a while, listen to a mix on YouTube or buy an album and just savor his stylings. The storyteller has a way of phrasing things that bring nuance and character to songs that others have covered, but cannot duplicate. The up-tempo Willie is fun and campy, but slow Willie is aching and heartfelt. Take a minute or a few and listen to a sampling of his best in the compilation below.

3. He isn’t afraid to jam with anyone – legends like himself or young artists making a name for themselves in the business.

Nelson isn’t afraid to sing with anyone. He’s at home in his voice and skin and knows who he complements best. A favorite of this writer’s is his pairing with Sheryl Crow singing “Crazy” from more than a few years back. Crow, young and in complete control of her voice, melds with Nelson in a duet that gives gooseflesh in abundance. This writer likes to think Patsy Cline would have approved (though her version is the first and definitive of the Nelson-written hit, of course).

Nelson and Sheryl Crow

Nelson and Dolly Parton

Nelson and Ray Charles

Nelson and Snoop Dogg

4. His colorful hobby.

You don’t have to love pot to love Willie Nelson’s love of it. Nelson has been an advocate for marijuana use and legalization practically since he first lit up in 1954. He has said it’s helped him after he quit drinking. He is now a “potrepreneur,” though he doesn’t smoke it anymore. He has his own brand of pot called Willie’s Reserve. Nelson said he still consumes cannabis, though he doesn’t smoke it. He has said in interviews that he once ran into a burning building to get his pot stash so he wouldn’t be caught.

Here are 20 Willie Nelson songs we’ll never forget:

1. “Always on my Mind”

2. “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”

3. “Mendocino County Line”

4. “Crazy”

5. “Remember Me”

6. “On the Road Again”

7. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”

8. “Night Life”

9. “Me and Paul”

10. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”

11. “Pancho and Lefty”

12. “Pretty Paper”

13. Good Hearted Woman

14. Family Bible

15. Hello Walls

16. “Georgia”

17. “Bloody Mary Morning”

18. “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”

19. “Forgiving You Was Easy”

20. “Whiskey River”

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.