Whenever I hear the opening lines of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”, I see my dad, bandana tied around his head, singing along at the top of his lungs. Dad raised us on a good mix of Beatles, Billy Joel, Steppenwolf, and Sly and the Family Stone to name a few. But for some reason, he found connection with Willie Nelson making him always in the musical mix. My dad has always stayed current with musical trends. He really has never followed country music, but Willie was his exception. I remember the first time he was able to see him in concert. While Willie and his band took a break, my dad snuck around and found Willie standing in the wing just watching the crowd react. My dad waved, and Willie waved back. Seeing big names where I grew up was not easy. You were in for a four hour trip which meant an overnight stay before coming home. That was never in the budget for my folks, but my mom had figured out a way for him to have that time -to have that moment. I know somewhere I still have the Willie Nelson bandana from that concert – brought back as a present.
A number of years later, my dad actually got to talk to him and shake his hand. There is a photo somewhere in my parents’ house of the moment (assuming it was not lost in the flooding of the basement or something). The local fair was able to get him and his band to come play during the fair concerts. They were the big name of the week. My dad was giddy as his local military unit was responsible for the color guard before each concert. As he was walking back to the vehicles after the color guard duties were done, he ran into Willie. Shook his hand, and got him to sign something for his brother. His brother and my dad seemed to find common ground over Willie.
I cannot count how many times I have sent my dad to go see Willie Nelson. I think in the past 9 years, we have sent him at least 3 times – each time he happens to be making a stop near where they live. When Dad was recovering from his heart surgery a few months ago, I remember on one of his rougher days we were trying to keep his spirits up. I finally said, “here’s the deal, Dad – you have to do the work and get better else you won’t be ready to see Willie in August. Yes – you have tickets. Yes – they were probably too much. But, fuck, you have to see the man any time you can before he goes. So get out of bed and do your walking!” After my dad got all teary, he finally got up and started doing what he needed to do.
Willie is a motivator.
G accidentally purchased tickets before looking at the entire tour, so we have tickets to see him in Portland tomorrow. He meant to buy them for my dad, but didn’t realize they were playing closer to where Dad lives. I’m not a country music fan – I’m just a music fan. As I like to tell people, my musical taste goes between “oh yeah, I listen to that” and “yeah, no please don’t judge me”.
But honestly, I like Willie Nelson. How can you not like this guy? 85 years old and still touring more than the youngsters. And as son commented during an interview I heard, no one can smoke more pot than Willie. And I guess that’s the thing I enjoy about him. A life progressed, he changed – he adjusted – and he kept going. IRS on your back? Do a tour to pay them off! Friend dying of alcohol and tobacco? Quit that shit and smoke pot instead. Need to recharge? Go to Hawaii and smoke pot and meditate.
There is a song he recorded on his last album – it was about all of his friends dying – and he is the last one standing. When asked why he refuses to perform that live, he explained that he is a positive guy. To play that song each night would kill him, staying positive is what has gotten him to 85 – he wasn’t changing it now.
This guy is the great example of what it is like to overcome stuff. He is the survivor. He is the thriver. He is the woo-woo new age, old school country star that keeps pursuing life while making his family keep up with him. How can you not respect the man and want to see him?
What will be interesting is to see if as much pot is passed around as there is in a George Clinton concert!
(in case you can’t see – here is the video)
(in case you can’t see it, here is the video)
(in case you cannot see it, here is the video)