Happy 8-0 Willie, no matter what day your birthday may be

Willie Nelson turns the big 8-0 today. Or tomorrow. There apparently is some dispute over what day The Red-Headed Stranger was born. Supposedly, he says today and the state of Texas says tomorrow (April 30, 2013.) Somehow, I think Willie might just light up a big ol’ reefer and say: “Who cares.”

There is no dispute that this extremely talented individual was born in Abbott, Texas, in Hill County. That is about five miles north of West, the small town struck with unimaginable destruction on April 17. In the wake of that devastation was left 15 dead and more than 150 injured.

Birthday Boy.
Birthday Boy.

All of this has to do with Willie in case you asked. Well, not the explosion but the man who seems to perpetually have a twinkle in his eye made his birthday party gig at the Bee Cave near Austin a benefit for the West volunteer firefighters and others who lost so heavily on that day. Some 12 of the 15 dead were first responders.

No matter that Willie Nelson is a “big old star” he is a country boy at his roots. And country people take care of their own. They might know yours and everyone else’s business and be judgmental as Roy Bean. But they take care of their own, by God.

“It’s been rough and rocky travelin’/But I’m finally standing upright on the ground/After takin’ several readings/I’m surprised to find my mind is fairly sound.” — “Me and Paul”

Willie has sang every kind of song, on every kind of stage, in cities big, small and in between. I first saw him, a clean cut replacement for Marty Robbins at a rodeo in Jasper, Texas. Then I saw him in his trademark short, cutoff blue jeans with a pony-tail and scraggly old red beard and hair. The hair was a lot less gray back in Santa Barbara in 1978.

There are so many songs of his I love: “Remember Me,” with his soulful singing, his wandering guitar and Sister Bobbie Nelson’s honky-tonk style piano. “The Red-Headed Stranger,” the concept album on which both the former and the title track may be heard. A hellacious cover version of Bob Wills’ “Stay a Little Longer.” You name it. Willie plays it.

Willie used to party a lot. Now, I understand he is a health-food nut. Yep, probably drinks only the best organic whiskey. He goes running, still I guess. Of course, he also has probably smoked enough ganja in his life to bring Bob Marley back from the dead.

He’s had highs in his life and he’s had lows. When I say “highs” I’m not talking about his well-known pot propensity. But he’s finally standing upright on the ground, just as he sung in the previously quoted tune “Me and Paul.” The “Paul” is Paul English, Willie’s long-time drummer, who is about the same age as Willie. Bobbie is two years older than her brother. Perhaps a bit of meanness is inside me but I would like to see a “Beer Rules” volleyball game between the Nelson clan and the Rolling Stones. Of course, Mick and the boys would probably get teased as “the youngsters.”

At any rate, if Willie Nelson isn’t my favorite musician, then he’s pretty damn close. Hope you have had a Happy Birthday Willie Hugh Nelson! Whenever you want to have it.


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