Texas History

Willie Nelson Turns 80: A Tribute and Playlist for a Texas Treasure

Willie Nelson was born 80 years ago today in the small town of Abbott, Texas. This really should be a holiday.

Nelson has been a Texas institution for over 50 years now. He's closely tied to our state's image -- his long career saw him start as a DJ in Houston, move to Nashville as a song writer, end up on the Grand Ole Opry and eventually move back to Texas to take part in the Cosmic Cowboy movement and help launch the world of Outlaw Country. His annual Fourth of July Picnic, started in 1973 after Willie's legendary performance at the '72 Dripping Springs Reunion, is widely known as the best damn time in the state.

Nelson has long been known for his activism -- he holds chairs on numerous philanthropic boards -- while also using much of his spare time advocating for everything from Better Treatment of Horses, to marijuana legalization and law reform. Texas Monthly, who are something of ongoing biographers of Willie, recently presented Nelson with custom logos inspired by the Human Rights Campaign while chatting with him,

Along with all of this, here's a list of borderline amazing things Willie Nelson has done:

-He made a Chris Martin song sound worthwhile. -He made a disastrous movie featuring Jessica Simpson worth watching. -He did a song with Snoop Dogg; Kris Kristoferson was on it as well. -He sued the Texas Democratic Party on behalf of Dennis Kucinich. -He started Farm Aid. -He started his own BioDiesel company. -He appeared in a bizarre Matthew McConuaughey movie named Surfer Dude, he surfed. -He's been arrested for possession four separate times, including once while driving to former governor Ann Richards' funeral. -After running awfowl of the IRS he released a double album dedicated to paying them back and dedicated to them in general.

I don't know what Willie Nelson means to you, but here's what he means to me: Willie has shown me that you can be an original individual who chases a dream; that while there are bumps along the way as long as you stay persistent and continue to work hard, you can make something wonderful happen. We're better off having Willie in our lives. His indelible legacy will live on and continue to grow. If you haven't yet, it is your duty as a Texan to catch him live at least once. Happy 80th birthday, Willie --we can't wait to wish you a happy 81st.

Below you'll find a list compiled of some of Willie's most memorable tracks.

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Jaime-Paul Falcon