Some of my favourite books are the ones from which I learn. I’ve learned from fiction and non-fiction, autobiographies too. Learning equals evolving, in theory at least, so with more reading comes a better understanding of the world around us. To say in my thirty plus years of reading, I have evolved is an understatement. I used to know so little about so few things. I remember hearing about Willie Nelson evading taxes and judged him without any idea of what the real story was. I’m sure though that Willie would forgive me my harshness, as one of the many things that I learned from his autobiography “It’s A Long Story” is that Willie is all about forgiveness.
With wit and the rawest of honesty, this book at times reads like a candid confessional. Willie puts it all out there, as though he has something to prove. But you soon learn that throughout Willie’s life, nothing he did was to prove anything other than music can heal the world. You learn that his odd sense of musical timing was a pattern in his life, where he was on no time schedule. What will be will be. He loves Jesus and his faith is something that doesn’t have to be renewed with sermons or rosaries, it’s simply a part of his genetic makeup living inside his blood and in his every cell. Willie is a good Christian. He reminds me of my Daddy in that way.
I’ve seen interviews recent and past and his whole demeanor, his wording, the colloquialism of his storytelling is reminiscent of how people in my own small town spoke when I was a child. Is “small town” a universal way of being as though with its own behavioral dialect? What do I mean? I mean if you were to drive through most small towns and wave at people like you know them, they’ll wave back. They’ll likely be talking about it for a week, but small townism is like a literal neighborhood watch program. What city slickers might call nosiness, small towners simply consider to be watching out for your fellow citizen. At least I hope most small towns are still like this everywhere. Is Abbott, Texas still like this Willie?
Stress is killing us all they say; take this or that to deter it. But you wouldn’t really know that if you talked to Willie. Oh sure, he was moving here or touring there, always on the go. He had some romantic issues, some legal issues, and some income issues too. But he was never stressed about it because he was doing what he loved. Reading about his all night jam sessions with his fellow “pickers” reminded me of Bob Marley who was much the same way. Like a truly amicable and beneficial addiction, this playing music thing was also a part of Bob’s genetic makeup. They played, picked, and jammed because they couldn’t not do it. Playing music together and the camaraderie that it wove is for many its own way of self- expression. For Willie and his friends it was like a group therapy session where the therapist is the music.
Willie Nelson’s life up until now is one to emulate. As colourful and unconventional as it was and is, there are lessons in his way of thinking that changed me. In Yoda-ish fashion, Willie shows us that there is no try there is only do. And that the try IS the do, for what really is success? Willie would say living, loving, and picking. He redefines faith for me. He doesn’t write about praying very much, perhaps because praying would infer doubt or impatience. He’s just always known that it’ll all be just fine in its own time. He speaks with so much love when he speaks about his family, and yet he will tell you that for him family and friend are of the same meaning. We are all his family he says.
I consider myself to be a writer in the making. Willie and I are alike in this way, except he’s more than made it. Has anyone else written as many songs as Willie Nelson has? And highly successful ones at that! There’s a genuineness in all of his words that tells me they were chosen because they fit the feel of the song, rather than chosen because of their hopeful success. So many of his albums were predicted to be flops but that didn’t stop Willie. His artistic expression and the freedom to pair it with any genre he fancied could not be hindered by mere capitalism. Perhaps his label’s reasons for being in the music industry were financial, but Willie’s were not. And they’re still not though he likely spends half of the year touring. And everywhere he goes, he’s giving voice to the voiceless, his music like a megaphone.
I could go on and on comparing Willie to other great humans. But I would be entirely remiss if I neglected to mention Willie’s love for the Cannabis plant. So in closing I’ll make one more comparison with Willie, and one that I think he’ll appreciate. Willie Nelson is like the flowers of the Cannabis plant in all of its various forms. They’re both medicinal don’t ya know? They both give us comfort when we’re down and both easily ease our pain. Willie oozes loving compassion like a sticky bouquet of buds. To me, his life can be described to look like the curing process for Cannabis Sativa or Indica. The sticky resins in the flowers contain sugars and terpenes that ripen over time and convert into nothing short of magic. Willie is like this, simply getting better with age. Willie like Cannabis is the great uniter, because as anyone knows if you want to make a friend you offer them your doob and crank up some Willie Nelson tunes.
Peace, Pot, and Prosperity to you Willie and all of your family too :)