Today marks the 83rd birthday of American treasure and country legend Willie Nelson. The singer-songwriter occupies a unique spot in our culture, as he’s simultaneously adored by both the Grand Ole Opry and marijuana legalization crowds.
“Along with marijuana legalization, Nelson has also championed causes including civil rights, bio-fuels, family farms, and animal welfare. But it’s his musical legacy which remains the native Texan’s biggest contribution to the collective good.”
Because while he still opens all his shows with “Whiskey River,” Nelson has been a public face for marijuana legalization since before Snoop Dog was a puppy. In a story that’s too good to fact check, he’s said to have smoked a joint on the roof of the White House while a guest of President Jimmy Carter. Today, he’s a co-chair on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Along with marijuana legalization, Nelson has also championed causes including civil rights, bio-fuels, family farms, and animal welfare. But it’s his musical legacy which remains the native Texan’s biggest contribution to the collective good. While under contract for a music publisher D Records in the 1960s, he penned many country classics, including “Pretty Paper” and “Crazy,” which Patsy Cline famously turned into a jukebox staple.
Nelson actually moved to Austin to retire at the beginning of the 1970s, but the famously fertile scene there pulled him back to performing.
Post-retirement, he’d become an icon in the outlaw country movement, and go on to release hits like “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” “On the Road Again,” and “Always On My Mind.” He’s played the same guitar—named “Trigger” after Roy Rogers’ horse—since 1969, and while the decades of strumming have worn a hole in the body, Nelson refuses to replace it, ofter saying “when Trigger goes, I’ll go too.”
Fortunately, they’re both still kicking. Happy birthday Willie Nelson—we’ll smoke a fat one in your honor today!
[ image via Rolling Stone ]