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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.
George Jones talks about his fight against addiction.
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The next year, two of Nelson's songs become hits for other artists -- Faron Young's version of "Hello Walls" and Patsy Cline's legendary rendition of "Crazy." His first album was released the next year without generating much notice.
Singer Ray Price, with whom Nelson had played with previously, made Nelson's song "Night Life" a big hit in 1963. It seemed that his songs were only successful when they were sung by other people. With his gritty,
road house sound, Nelson did not fit into the traditional Nashville country music scene. Producers tried to make him fit the more classic country mould, but they just stripped away his unique style, such as his unusual manner of phrasing. And his resistance to these efforts made him a bit of an outlaw, as did his reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-living man.
His home in Ridgetop, Tennessee, burnt down in 1970. Taking this as a sign, Nelson moved away from Nashville, returning to his native state of Texas. He became part of the country music scene in Austin and started hosting his now legendary Fourth of July picnics. Inspired by Woodstock, the gatherings became popular musical celebrations, and included performances from other country music outlaws such as Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings.
Nelson also kept recording albums, but now he was definitely going his own way. Soon the long haired, bandana-wearing guitarist started to develop a following. Shotgun Willie (1973) is considered to be one of his greatest albums of all time, and showcased his abilities as a singer, storyteller, and performer. The next year, Nelson released Phases and Stages (1974), which became another popular album for the rising star.
With his album, Red Headed Stranger (1975), Nelson had his first taste of crossover success. It did well on both the country and rock charts and featured the hit "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," which was written by Fred Rose. Along with being his first song to reach No. 1 on the country charts, the song also brought Nelson his first Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1975.
Around this time, he contributed to the compilation Wanted: The Outlaws, which also featured Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser. Nelson and Jennings also collaborated on the popular song "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," which won the 1978 Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
Always interested in different music styles, Nelson recorded his own takes on some American standards on his album Stardust (1978). His cover of Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell's "Georgia on My Mind" earned him his second Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance. Beyond its critical success, the album proved to have staying power as well, lingering on the country charts for a decade.
Around this time, Nelson also branched out into acting. He first appeared in The Electric Horseman (1979) starring Robert Redford.
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