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Happy 70th Birthday 

Music legend Willie Nelson sings the praises of life as he turns 70. things have never been better for me – I’ve never been happier Willie tells an insider with Nashville scene. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and go through life moment by moment, day by day with a positive attitude. I’m blessed with having the greatest bunch of people to work and live with. I called them, the family some are biologically my family, and rest I love like family. I hang out with people I like create music I like, and pretty much do what I like. What more could you ask for? The country star, who was born April 30, 1933, has created harmony in his life after decades of struggling against poverty, tragedy and the US government. When Willie was only 2 he and his sister Bobbie were taken in by grandparents after their father died and their mother abandoned them.

As a teenager, he lived hand-to-mouth while playing rough-and-tumble honky-tonks. Since then, he has composed nearly 2,000 songs – including classics like Crazy, made famous by Pasty Cline – and personally racked up 20 No. 1 hits, platinum-selling albums and several Grammy’s. But troubles have marred Willie’s successes. There have been three divorces and in 1991 his eldest son committed suicide at 33. a few years later, one of Willie’s daughters reportedly ran off with her two children’s $130,000 trust fund, forcing him to take care of the grandkids. In 1993, he settled a $16.7 million IRS bill that resulted from bad investment advice. He ended up paying $9 million - $5.4 million in cash and $3.6 million in assets. Fans can read the juicy details of Willie’s life in his autobiography, The Facts Of Life And Other Dirty Jokes (Random House.

Years of drinking and heavy marijuana use took a toll on his health. Two bouts with pneumonia in 2001 led Willie to cut back on booze and pot, even though he openly supports legalizing weed. When I had pneumonia, I a couple of hits, and it hurt my lungs, says Willie. I have cut down and I am healthier now than I have ever been. These days, he runs every day, practices karate and yoga, plays golf whenever he can and still has enough energy to play up to 200 shows a year, including his annual Farm-Aid benefit. As a matter of fact, he prefers spending time aboard his tour bus, The Honeysuckle Rose 3, rather than his 700-acre ranch out-side Austin Texas, his home in Maui or even fancy hotels booked by his managers. Retirement’s no even a passivity – I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing says Willie.

I’m what they used to call a troubadour, an itinerant singer and guitar picker. The bus is a high-tech luxury wonder with private berths, bathrooms, satellite TV and radio, a super sound system, a king-size bed and workout equipment. One of Willie’s favorite onboard pastimes is steaming soy milk for cappuccinos. And when he doesn’t have time to steam, he slurps soy mochas from Starbucks like they’re going out of style. But the most important asset on board the bus is Willie’s crew, The Family, which includes his sister Bobbie, as well as long-time drivers and musicians. His Web-Site is run by two daughters and granddaughter. Willie’s status as a national musical treasure – as confirmed by his Lifetime Achievement Award from Grammy organizers – has let him spread his wings with Rock N Roll remakes, Gypsy jazz, Top 40 Latin tunes and even Rap.

I Still want to sing with Barbara Streisand, says Willie maybe if I say it enough times, she’ll hear me and it’ll happen  


Willie Nelson At the Fillmore

                       In Concert February 27, 2002  At The Fillmore
There stood the 68-year old Texan with gray-and-red braids hanging to his waist, strumming a beat-up guitar older than half the crowd, singing a song from “The Muppet Movie”. Only Willie Nelson gets away with that nearly unimaginable scenario. Not only was it possible, it was downright good. This wasn’t some Haight Street derelict who wanted up on the Fillmore’s stage Tuesday night. It was the Red-Headed Stranger, the country music legend who wrote “Crazy” for Pasty Cline more than four decades ago, yet dares to cover a Cyndi Lauper song on his new record.

The whole range of Nelson’s career was on display during his two and Half hour show Tuesday, kicking off a four-night run at the Fillmore. The show was moved back a day to accommodate Nelson’s appearance at the Olympics closing ceremony this weekend in Salt Lake City. It’s a charm life Nelson is living these days, evidenced by a sold-out crowd of relative youngsters who adored just about everything Nelson did Tuesday night, even if it took them a bit to warm up. Though there were a few cowboys hats and bandannas peppered throughout the audience, there were far more hipsters in their 20s and 30s, coming out to see the staple of America music who, like fellow highwayman Johnny Cash, has become irrepressibly cool past decade. If his crowd has changed over the years, Nelson hasn’t. He still wears the same American flag bandanna, black T-shirt and jeans, and has the core band he’s had for 30 odd years. He still smiles through his grizzled beard and lined face, and plays guitar like no other.

Like the crowd energy, Nelson improved as the night went on living evidence that the road isn’t fiction. It was as tangible as the massive tour bus parked out front with painted on horse-mounted cowboys staring into the sunset. Being on the road isn’t merely what Nelson does it’s what he lives and loves. That’s showed, not his age. He did all the classics Tuesday, opening by simply walking out with the eight-member Willie Nelson Family and playing. Only a few minutes in, and without much fanfare, they were into “Crazy” possibly the greatest song Nelson ever wrote. The rest of the show was far from anti-climactic. He just has too many good songs lying about. Though Nelson has a new well-received record out, following fellow old guys like Carlos Santana and Mick Jagger by using as many guest songwriters and vocalists as possible, Tuesday’s set concentrated mostly on the classics. He doesn’t mess with what works , playing the songs we know the way they were recorded at least until the last part of the show, when shorter versions start popping up, understandably, since we’re talking about a song catalog more then four decades long. 

If there’s any big difference between listing to a Willie Nelson record and seeing him in person, it is the scope of his guitar playing, which is brilliant live. It’s as unique as the singing voice, coming in short, staccato bursts of floating gently out over the Fillmore’s chandeliers. His wandering, south-of-the-border leads on “Me And Bobby McGee” “Mama Don’t Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” game continuously, always with a direction, a point a beginning and an end. Nelson doesn’t just play to hear himself; he speaks as much with guitar as he does with his voice. His lead in “Always On My Mind” was short but gorgeous, blending into his vocals, then into a harmony lead with his other two guitarists. During “Whiskey River” he squeezed some tasty plucking in between verse lines as if it was the most natural thing in the world. By te time Nelson got to the trademark “On The Road Again” the crowd was fully into the show, bobbing up and down from one end of the floor to the other. Though he was light on the newer material, “Maria” (Shut Up And Kiss Me) fit right into the set, despite being a noticeable change of pace. The song was written by matchbox twenty’s Bob Thomas the new patron songwriter of big name artists over 50. It’s pretty good son, but has a noticeable lack of feeling when stacked into a pile of Nelson oldies.

Funny enough, it was Paul Williams’s song that peaked the show near midnight. Nelson’s subdued yet powerful version of “The Rainbow Connection” might have made Muppet founder Jim Henson cry. Willie Nelson may be only man on earth who can make a great experience out of a song made famous by singing frog-puppet. It was oddly fitting. 

 

 

Revised: September 03, 2007

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