During the past year alone, he has recorded a new album, hosted multiple music festivals and continued to champion marijuana.
No one would dispute the fact that Willie Nelson — whose 87th birthday is today — has had an incredible life. But Nelson has also had an incredible year. Actually, an incredible couple of years.
Since we last checked in on a Nelson birthday, in this piece, when Willie turned 85, he’s recorded a new album, First Rose of Spring, which as far as anyone knows will be No. 70. Its arrival date was April 24, but because of the coronavirus, its release has been pushed back until July 3.
Speaking of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 25,000 people in his native Texas and more than 1 million across the country, Nelson has done everything he can to help out. For one, he scheduled a virtual music festival in which he got Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, Jewel and Lucinda Williams to share the stage.
He also pulled off a virtual Farm Aid concert, adding to the lineup sons Lukas and Micah, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews. That one raised $500,000 to support family farmers, for whom Nelson has long been a financial warrior.
He even staged a concert in honor of 4/20, the unofficial marijuana holiday. That one, featuring appearances by Beto O’Rourke, Matthew McConaughey, Ziggy Marley, Jeff Bridges, Bill Maher and Kacey Musgraves, flaunted the nickname “Come and Toke It” and benefited those who have been locked up for smoking pot.
Recently, he’s been autographing face masks sent to him — in order to raise money for even more masks.
And, of course, the show was exactly 4 hours and 20 minutes long.
But not all the news has been good. Nelson mourned the death of his longtime drummer and close friend, Paul English, who died in February at 87.
As Nelson’s gun-toting de facto bodyguard, English inspired the Willie ballad, “Me & Paul,” which, of course, Nelson still sings.