Willie Nelson (born 30.4.1933)
Willie Nelson is an American country singer who initially rose to fame in the 1970s but has maintained a career for around 40 years and is considered an icon of American music.
Willie Nelson: Childhood
Born in Texas, Willie Nelson was the son of Myrle and Ira Nelson. Ira Nelson was a mechanic and also owned a pool hall. Willie began playing the guitar when he was six years old and wrote his first song at the age of nine.
Whilst he was at high school, Nelson met Bud Fletcher and joined his band, Bohemian Fiddlers. During that time, he also worked as a DJ for a number of local radio stations.
Willie Nelson was briefly a member of the Air Force and studied agriculture at Baylor University for one year. Nelson moved to Washington in 1956 and recorded a version of the Leon Payne song, 'Lumberjack' and sold the song 'Family Bible' for $50 to Claude Gray, for whom it was a huge hit.
Willie Nelson: Musical Career
In 1960, Nelson moved to Nashville. He struggled to obtain a record label contract, although he signed a publishing contract with Pamper Music. His song 'Night Life' was covered by Ray Price, as well as by Charles Manson and is reportedly the most covered country song of all time.
Nelson joined Price's band, Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys and wrote a number of their hits, including 'Pretty Paper', which was later covered by Roy Orbison.
In 1965, Willie Nelson signed a contract with RCA Victor Records, home of Elvis Presley and joined the Grand Ole Opry. He started to play his own music, which has influences from country, jazz and folk music.
In the early 1970s, Nelson signed to Atlantic records. In 1973, he released Shotgun Willie. The album was a critical, if not a commercial, success. 1974's Phases and Stages contained songs about his recent divorce, including the track 'Bloody Mary Mornings'.
His next label move was to Columbia Records. Columbia ensured that Willie Nelson had complete creative control over his music and his first album for them was Red Headed Stranger, released in 1975. His cover of Fred Rose's 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain' was Nelson's first number one record. In 1976, he recorded an album with Waylon Jennings, Tompall Glaser and Jessi Colter, named Wanted! The Outlaws.
1978 was a successful year for Nelson. He released two albums, Waylon and Willie and Stardust. Both albums were later awarded platinum selling status, with the latter being produced by Booker T. Jones.
In the 1980s, Willie Nelson formed a country supergroup with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. They named the group The Highwaymen.
In 1985, Nelson founded the Farm Aid charity concerts. Five years later, the IRS seized most of Willie Nelson assets, in order to pay $16.7 million in backdated tax payments. In order to help pay the charges, he released an album entitled The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? All of the money raised from sales of the album went directly to the IRS.
In 1993, Willie Nelson recorded the album Across the Borderline. Amongst the featured guests on the album were Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and Paul Simon.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Willie Nelson continued to make critically revered albums such as Tetra, which featured vocals from Emmylou Harris. In 2004, Nelson released Outlaws and Angles, which featured guests such as Carole King, Kid Rock and Al Green.
Willie Nelson: Acting Career
Willie Nelson has appeared in a number of films, the first being 1979's The Electric Horseman. Other highlights of his movie career include starring in Songwriter with Kris Kristofferson in 1984 and Stagecoach in 1986, alongside Johnny Cash. In 2006, he Nelson also appeared in the remake of Dukes of Hazzard.
Willie Nelson has also made a large number of cameo appearances in high profile TV shows and films, including The Simpsons, Miami Vice and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Willie Nelson: Personal Life
Nelson is a staunch campaigner for the legalization of marijuana.
He has been married four times and has eight children.