Johnny Cash represents the spirited, punk, in outlaw country music, but Willie Nelson is the good natured, Hippie of the lot. He bucked the conservative Nashville music seen in the 70’s, after having been a part of it, and introduced marijuana to rednecks. By doing that he changed the musical landscape of Austin, Texas making it, arguably, the one spot in a giant, conservative state where liberal thought can be tolerated. Willie was never afraid to experiment with his music, often times introducing jazz and folk influences to his songs. It was this adherence to music, not style that helped to rejuvenate his career with a string of influential albums that bucked country music trends; such as, Phases and Stages, and The Red Headed Stranger. This string of concept records connected with audiences ready for new innovation in an arguably tired sound.
Willie had already had a somewhat successful career at the Grand Ol’ Opry when he retired in 1970, but Austin does not allow talent to grow moss. Willie was persuaded to return from his retirement due to the bustling music scene that evolved in the city. It’s most likely the city of Austin itself that is responsible for the singer’s second act and most important career highlights. It would be easy to argue that since he wasn’t constricted by the drive to, “make it.” He was free to do whatever he wanted. That freedom has propelled him ever since and has seen him excel with projects such as the early 1990’s outlaw country super group: The Highwaymen, doing beforehand un-heard of duets with latin music’s, heart-throb crooner Julio Iglesias and using his status and celebrity to further several causes near and dear to his heart.
There are so many acts; twists and turns in Willie’s life and career, that focusing on one thing would prove to be a feat in and of itself. Yeah, there’s the Farm Aid stuff; there’s the weed stuff; there’s the bio-diesel activism; solar-power activism; and his long time support of LGBTQ rights. At 83 you wouldn’t be wrong for assuming that Willie would be slowing down, however, in this case you would be mistaken. Willie has continued performing, recording and touring and has announced that he will be opening his own marijuana dispensaries called: Willie’s Reserve, in every state that legalizes marijuana. The man is a machine with a huge heart, and forward thinking ideas.
Willie Nelson plays Pompano Beach Amphitheater, Saturday, March 4. Doors at 7:30, tickets start at $39.50.