Born April 30, 1933, the iconic Texas singer-songwriter Willie Nelson has earned a permanent position in pop music’s pantheon with unforgettable songs that combine the sophistication of Tin Pan Alley with the rough-and-tumble grit and emotional honesty of country music. His six-decade-spanning catalog includes more than 60 studio albums in addition to live recordings, soundtracks, collaborations with other artists and more. A songwriter of rare and precise elegance, Willie brought the worlds of pop and country together on the radio in the early 1960s penning evergreen classics like “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Hello Walls” (Faron Young), “Funny How Time Slips Away” (Billy Walker), “Night Life” (Ray Price) and others. By the mid-1970s, Willie Nelson had become an indelible superstar in his own right, as prime mover of a revolutionary and thriving outlaw country music scene. The Red Headed Stranger, Willie’s first album for Columbia Records in 1975, catapulted the artist into the pantheon of archetypal popularity, making his name familiar in country and city households across America and around-the-world.
A seven-time Grammy Award winner, Willie Nelson has received numerous accolades including American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards and others. He is a co-founder of Farm Aid, an annual series of fundraising events which began as an all-star benefit concert in 1985 to raise money for American family farmers. He continues to lobby against horse slaughter and produces his own blend of biodiesel fuel. An old-school road-dog troubadour with new school wheels, Willie plays concerts year-round, tirelessly touring on Honeysuckle Rose III (he rode his first two buses into the ground), taking his music and fans to places that are always worth the ride.
In February 2012, Willie Nelson entered into an historic new record deal with Legacy Recordings, the catalog division of Sony Music Entertainment, marking a label homecoming for Nelson, who, from 1975-1993, had cut a phenomenal string of top-selling singles and albums for Columbia Records, beginning with 1975's seminal smash Red Headed Stranger. New titles by the artist under the Legacy imprint will include newly recorded songs and performances as well as archival releases, personally curated by the artist, drawn from all phases of his career including his recordings for RCA Records and others.
As curator of his historic catalog, Willie is working with label archivists to select recordings, including previously released and previously unreleased tracks, for release in newly compiled collections and as bonus material on new editions of existing titles, providing fresh perspective and context to the artist's profoundly influential and successful career.
Heroes, Willie Nelson's first release for Legacy, proved a a hit with fans, press and radio, where the record spent five consecutive weeks at #1 on the Americana Radio Chart. Released on May 15, Heroes debuted at #18 on the Billboard 200 best-selling albums chart--Willie's highest number on the Billboard 200 since Always On My Mind hit #2 in 1982--while opening at #4 on the Country Albums chart and #15 on the Top Digital Albums chart.
Heroes is essential Willie Nelson, a seamless collection of top-flight pop-country songs (including covers from the 30s and 40s and new songs by Willie, his sons, Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, and more) performed with the easy-going homespun warmth and honesty that have become his trademarks. Heroes featured Willie with an all-star roster of guest artists including Merle Haggard, Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Sheryl Crow, and Jamey Johnson as well as Willie's sons, Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson. Produced by Buddy Cannon, Heroes was mainly recorded by Steve Chadie at Pedernales Recording Studio in Austin, Texas (with three tracks--"Hero," "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" and "Come On Back Jesus"--recorded by Butch Carr at Cannon Productions and Sound Emporium Recording Studios in Nashville).
The nation's music press was unanimous in its praise of Heroes with Rolling Stone luxuriating in the "stark beauty of solo songs like the weeper 'That's All There Is To This Song'" while People magazine, giving the album 3.5 out of 4 stars, marveled as "The iconic outlaw saddles up with some worshipful fans... showing his eternal cool...." The Huffington Post noted that Heroes is "...as spirited as it is poignant" while the albums music "...Speaks of his spontaneity and his willingness to record with whomever he desires." The San Antonio Current concurred with the simple remarkable observation that "Willie Nelson gets cooler and edgier with time."
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Legacy Recordings launched a series of events celebrating Willie's 80th birthday with the release of Let's Face The Music And Dance, a collection of new studio performances by Willie Nelson and Family, on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
The album also celebrates more than forty years on the road and in the studio with Family, the band he formed with his sister, Bobbie Nelson (on piano), drummer Paul English and harmonica shaman Mickey Raphael--their name taken from his 1971 studio album Willie Nelson & Family. Rounding out the Family line-up on Let's Face The Music And Dance are Billy English (Paul's brother) on electric gut string and snare drum, Kevin Smith on upright bass and Jim "Moose" Brown on B-3 organ with Willie's son, Micah Nelson, adding percussion on select tracks. Willie Nelson and his guitar, Trigger, appear on all the songs.
A collection of deep pop country repertoire classics performed with transformative patented ease by Willie Nelson and Family, his long-time touring and recording ensemble, Let's Face The Music And Dance was recorded at Pedernales Recording Studio in Austin, Texas, produced by Buddy Cannon and mixed by Butch Carr at Budro Music Repair Shop in Nashville, Tennessee.
Compiling the repertoire for Let's Face The Music And Dance, Willie chose a range of pop, rock, jazz and country classics drawn from the 1930s ("Let's Face the Music and Dance," "Walking My Baby Back Home"), 1940s ("You'll Never Know," "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," "Shame On You") and 1950s ("Matchbox") covering evergreen songwriters Irving Berlin, Mack Gordon, Carl Perkins, Frank Loesser, Django Reinhardt and Spade Cooley, among others. Willie turns in a beautiful new version of his composition "Is The Better Part Over," a song he introduced on 1989's A Horse Called Music.
In September 2013, Legacy Recordings will release To All The Girls..., a collection of newly recorded duets between Willie Nelson and a dream list of contemporary pop-country women singers including Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna Judd, Rosanne Cash, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Tina Rose, Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Secret Sisters, Brandi Carlile, Lily Meola, Shelby Lynne, Melonie Cannon and Paula Nelson.
The artist's third full-length album of new music to be released in a mere 16 months, To All The Girls... celebrates Willie's 80th birthday year with a selection of profoundly moving and heartfelt performances of classic songs from America's country, pop and gospel repertoire and more.
For this memorable occasion, Willie wears fashion designer John Varvatos on the To All The Girls… album materials. Varvatos is also featuring Willie along with his two sons, Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, in the brand's Fall 2013 campaign, which includes striking black and white images and a short film lensed by Danny Clinch.
2013 is proving a banner year for the pop country patriarch whose rollicking memoir, "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die - Musings from the Road," published by HarperCollins in May 2012, is a New York Times bestselling non-fiction title.
At 80 years young, Willie Nelson has recorded and released not one, but two complete albums of new studio music this year. Both To All The Girls... and Let's Face The Music And Dance are essential additions to the archetypal outlaw country artist's catalog of timeless recordings.