Thoughts on Willie Nelson:
I read a quote recently where someone said (and I paraphrase) that “considering all Willie Nelson has done for America, he should be exempt from paying taxes for the rest of his life.” Well, I agree. Willie has got one of those voices (and by that I mean both his phrasing, dynamics and identification with his subject matter) that is unique in country music. It’s one of those voices that you love or hate. With me, Willie’s voice has always had the same appeal as Bob Dylan’s – the quality of the voice alone portrays so much more than any lyric it communicates. I’ve also been an admirer of Willie Nelson for as long as I remember. The first time I heard one of his songs, I was impressed by the way he used “ten dollar words.” To me, he’s one of the great lyricists in American music – comparable to say Sammy Cahn or Cole Porter. There’s always insider information available to the attentive student, and it’s always delivered in such a way that you’re never really quite sure whether or not you are among the select few who “get it.” That, in a song, is magical. There’s always a lot of talk about how Willie “bucked the system.” But I think, like any true revolutionary, Willie realizes that there was only so much he could do from the outside. That’s why his songs were so important when they were recorded by “Nashville” artists. You hear the strings, or heavy reverb, or whatever studio effects are added to enhance the cross-over potential, but underneath, like an artery coursing vital nutrients to the brain, there’s that bite, that essential life force. That, to me, is Willie Nelson.