Elvis Presley, Doris Day, and Dean Martin are the artists that had top 10 singles in the year Willie Nelson recorded his first professional single.
It went for just 78 seconds and sold 3000 copies for $1 each, not bad money back in the day but hardly enough to make songwriting his full-time career. Nelson continued to work in radio until in 1962 he released his first full album; from there he just hasn't stopped.
Now Nelson is 89 years old and while some people know him as somewhat of a comedic, stoner character there is real a story behind the music he still makes today.
He beat modern-day country rockstars including Luke Combs who recently toured Australia at last week's Grammy awards to take home the Best Country Album of 2023 with A Beautiful Time.
It was Nelson's 98th studio album, yes you read that right 98 studio albums. As well as 14 live albums, being on 51 compilation albums released 41 video albums and being featured on two soundtracks Nelson is open of the most prolific songwriters of all time. Having sold more than 40 million albums he's also one of the most successful.
In his most recent album, his voice may be slightly raspy, but the lyrics hit just as hard as they always did. It's as if Nelson is speaking directly into your soul with his beautiful lyrics about, life, love and loss, something he knows plenty about.
He can also draw inspiration from another country music star who was still making music well towards the end of his life. That was his great friend Jonny Cash who Nelson had so much to do with during the peak of his career through the 80s and 90s.
Nelson played a massive part in the creation of the outlaw country which brought so much success. After being inspired by the hippy movement of the 70s Nelson wanted to tell stories through his music. Leading to albums such as Phases and Stages which told the story of divorce, with the 'A' side being from the woman's perspective and the 'B' from the man's.
That of course was all before what Nelson is perhaps best known for. In the mid-80s, Nelson joined country legends, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Jonny Cash to form The Highwaymen. The band procured some of the best-selling country music of all time as well as live concerts which are still remembered by many today.
Around the same time, Nelson began a massive amount of charity work. Firstly through concerts that included guest stars such as Rosalynn Carter before becoming heavily involved in the well-known charity single, We Are The World.
Even more recently Nelson raised almost a million dollars during the lockdowns with benefit concerts. The first two concerts raised money who suffered financial loss during the pandemic, while the last was cannabis themed (a great passion of Nelson's) and raised money for The Last Prisoner Project.
Nelson didn't quite get on the list of the oldest Grammy award winners with Pinetop Perkins sitting upon that perch at almost 98 years of age. But who knows we could easily be writing this again in a decade with Nelson taking the top spot.
With 56 total nominations, Nelson went past fellow country legend Dolly Parton last week and now sits with some of the greatest of all time.
How much longer we will have the pleasure of listening to this legend, who knows? So we should cherish every moment that we get to grace the same planet as Nelson. In every sense of the word, he is a legend and his longevity is simply incredible.
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