LOS ANGELES — “Lifetime achievements are done day by day,” Willie Nelson told an audience assembled to honor him and other musical greats Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented Nelson, Woody Guthrie, John Lee Hooker, Mitch Miller and Harry Belafonte with Lifetime Achievement Awards, in recognition of “creative contributions of outstanding significance to the field of recording.”
Contemplating the award’s meaning in the days prior to the presentation, Nelson said he concluded that it honored day-to-day things. To illustrate, he recalled a recording session, scheduled with NARAS chairman emeritus Phil Ramone and the late Frank Sinatra, to record “My Way” as a duet. Nelson had played poker the night before, until the wee hours of the morning.
“I was driving back to the studio, it was about 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, so I decided to pull over and rest,” he said. “To make a long story short, I wound up in jail. I had an achievement to achieve that day. I had to get out of jail and go sing “My Way” with Frank Sinatra.”
Academy chief Michael Greene praised Nelson for writing songs that “charmed the nation and revolutionized country music,” and for the generosity of spirit that inspired him to raise millions of dollars for the American independent farmer through Farm Aid.
“It’s been an incredible week and an incredible lifetime,” Nelson said in conclusion. “Thank you very much.”