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Willie Nelson is a country singer and songwriter best known for hit songs including “Crazy” and “On the Road Again.”
Willie Nelson - Full Biography (45:25)
Patsy Cline - Crazy (2:23)
Willie Nelson is recognized worldwide as an American troubadour and icon. Willie has remained relevant through five decades with his music and as the face of such social causes as Farm Aid and the legalization of Hemp.
Musical legend Ray Charles describes what makes Willie Nelson so special as a singer and songwriter, and what makes his voice unique.
In 1962, County Music legend Patsy Cline recorded Willie Nelson's song, "Crazy," a song he'd written while driving.
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Willie Nelson was born on April 30, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. Nelson rose to prominence at the end of the 1960s and contributed to the “outlaw country” subgenre, which challenged the conservatism of Nashville. Nelson has written some of the most popular country songs of all time, including the hit song “Crazy.” He is also well known for his financial troubles and for his activism.
"If you start out looking at somebody, wondering whether he's good or bad, I think you're starting out in the wrong direction. I think we're all good and we're all bad."
Singer, songwriter, actor and philanthropist Willie Nelson was born on April 30, 1933, in Abbott, Texas. During his extensive career, Willie Nelson has written more than 2,500 songs and has released close to 300 albums. He has won multiple awards, including countless Grammys, American Music Awards and Country Music Awards.
In 2012, the Country Music Association honored Nelson with an all-star tribute at the CMAs in Nashville. He is recognized worldwide as an American troubadour and icon, transcended musical genres and has remained relevant through five decades for his music, acting and as the face of such social causes as Farm Aid, development of bio-diesel and the legalization of marijuana.
The son of Myrle and Ira D. Nelson, Willie Nelson and his older sister Bobbie were raised by their paternal grandparents during The Great Depression. With their grandmother, Willie and Bobbie attended their town's small Methodist church where they were first exposed to music. "The first music we learned was from the hymnbooks. Willie had such a beautiful voice," his sister Bobbie told Texas Monthly in 2008. Both grandparents loved music and encouraged Willie and his sister to play. Nelson's famous gospel song "Family Bible" refects the influence of his musical beginnings. He sold the song for $50 to his guitar teacher.
Nelson got his first guitar at the early age of six and soon started writing his own songs. A few years later, he played his first professional gig with a local polka band. Nelson later joined Bud Fletcher and the Texans and played the local club circuit. Also in the group was his sister Bobbie, who played piano. She later married Bud Fletcher. One of his early inspirations was Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys -- a group known for their upbeat country dance music, which included some elements of swing.
After graduating high school in 1950, Nelson went into the U.S. Air Force. He did not last long, however. Stationed in Lackland in San Antonio, Texas, Nelson had to leave the service because of back problems. He tried college, attending Baylor University for a time. To make ends meet, Nelson took on odd jobs, including selling encyclopedias door to door.
Dropping out, Nelson worked as a radio disc jockey for several years and played gigs in his spare time. He continued writing songs, producing some of his most famous works -- inclucing "Night Life," "Crazy" and "Funny How Time Slips Away" -- in the late 1950s.
In 1960, Nelson moved to the country music capital: Nashville, Tennessee. He got a job as a songwriter for Pamper Music, earning about $50 a week.
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