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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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Soon after, Nelson starred in Honeysuckle Rose (1980), in which he played a veteran country musician performer. His character was torn between his wife (played by Dyan Cannon) and the young singer (Amy Irving) who joins him on the road. The film also featured the song "On the Road Again," which earned Nelson an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. Now considered a trademark Nelson tune,
"On the Road Again" also won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1980.
Nelson's successful streak -- both commercially and critically -- continued into the 1980s. The ballad "Always on my Mind" won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1982. Albums Without A Song (1984) and City of New Orleans (1984) reached the top or near the top of the country charts. Singing with singer Julio Iglesias, Nelson scored a big hit with the ballad "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" in 1984.
The following year, Nelson teamed up with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson to form the Highwaymen. Their first release, Highwayman (1985) was a big hit, as was the title track. The group went on to produce a live album and another studio effort, Highwayman 2 (1995).
Known for his compassion, Nelson -- along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp -- organized the first Farm Aid concert in 1985 in an effort to help family farmers. To date, the Farm Aid organization has raised more than $30 million and continues to work to keep family farmers on their land. In 2007, Ben & Jerry's released "Willie Nelson's Country Peach Cobbler Ice Cream" with a portion of Nelson's proceeds donated to Farm Aid.
In 1990, Nelson ran into his own financial problems. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) told him that he owed the government $16 million in taxes, and they seized most of his property to cover the bill. Maintaining his sense of humor, Nelson released The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories to generate some cash to pay off the government.
On a much more personal level, Nelson was dealt another devastating blow when his son Billy committed suicide on Christmas Day in 1991. Still, Nelson managed to keep going and keep recording. Several of his albums, including Across the Borderline (1993) and Healing Hands of Time (1994) reached the top 20 on the country album charts.
Known for smoking marijuana, Nelson was arrested in 1994 after pot was found in his car. The case was later thrown out. In 2006, Nelson was again arrest for possession in Louisiana. This time he received six months probation.
That same year, Nelson helped out his hometown of Abbott, Texas. He bought and continues to support the town's church and grocery store, which were both in danger of failing. Nelson has also worked on behalf of the environment, promoting an alternative, cleaner burning fuel known as biodiesel. In 2007, he even started marketing his own brand called BioWillie, which is a combination of diesel and biodiesel made from soybeans. "It seems like that's good for the whole world if we can start growing our own fuel instead of starting wars over it." said Nelson in a 2005 interview.
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