Outlaw country music icon Willie Nelson turned eighty years young today and the National Cannabis Coalition wishes the legend a happy birthday and a toast to many, many more. Willie has accomplished so much in the music world and has been a tremendous ambassador for the cannabis community.
Willie Nelson's prolific musical career has spanned more than 70 years now, as he first started writing songs when he was only 7! Always touring and recording more than sixty studio albums, ten live albums and thirty-seven compilations, Mr. Nelson has shattered the lazy stoner stereotype. Several of Willie's songs became instant classics and will always be remembered. He composed "Crazy" in 1961 and Patsy Cline took it to #2 on the country charts and the song became a crossover hit withRolling Stone naming it the 85th best song of all-time. "On the Road Again" was released in 1980, winning the country outlaw a Grammy and peaking at #20 on the Hot Billboard 100. His performance of "Always on My Mind" won him 3 Grammys in 1983 and is the iconic performance of the song, outperforming other musical luminaries such as Elvis Presley and the Pet Shop Boys. "Whiskey River" is one of my personal favorites and is another song demonstrating Willie's ability to make a song his own as this song remains a staple of his performances and has become one of his signature songs. Somehow, Willie is still musically relevant to this day, performing with the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson and Snoop Dogg on "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die". Willie was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and he received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998, joining musicians from Count Bassie to Lena Horne to Dizzy Gillespie to James Brown to Paul McCarney to Led Zepellin.
I had the pleasure of seeing Wille Nelson and Family perform last September and I was amazed at how much his band just jammed out and the amazing talent Willie displayed. I must admit that I was expecting a man way past his prime, kind of doing a career but this man has defied the laws of physics and can still play a mean guitar with the best of 'em!
I don't think that it is an overstatement to proclaim Willie Nelson one of the most important members of the cannabis community. Like a lot of us, he has had his ups and downs, a run-in with the IRS and a few arrests for marijuana, but through talent, determination and a compassionate heart, Willie has persevered and thrived. In addition to fighting for the rights of the cannabis community, Willie has stepped up for American farmers, the LGBT community and our environment. He travels in a bio-fuel tour bus and has been inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame for raising millions of dollars for farmers. Like his music, Willie has crossover appeal. Fans of everyone from Justin Bieber to Merle Haggard to the Beatles to Bob Marley to Hank Williams, Jr. to George Jones can enjoy Willie Nelson's music. When your conservative-throw-'em-all-in-jail uncle from Texas joins your family for Thanksgiving and brings up his support for putting pot smokers in jail, you can bring up Willie Nelson and not even he wants to put Willie in jail, forcing him to question his support of this senseless war.
Happy Birthday, Willie, you probably don't know how much you mean to many of us. Thank you and keep on, keepin' on. While the cannabis community has our holiday on 4/20, I recommend that we follow-up that holiday by celebrating Willie Nelson Day every April 30th.