Live Forever

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Texas is a beautiful place. It has everything that anyone might want to experience, lush forests and arid desserts, flat plains and rolling mountains, big cities and empty spaces, dry gulches and coastal beaches. While the state sometimes makes the news for horrific tragedies and political shenanigans, the people in Texas are mostly really good folks who are friendly and helpful. We Texans may quibble over how things should be done but when the chips are down we come together. One sure thing that we all seem to agree on is that Willie Nelson is our treasure. Somehow he manages to typify the essence of being a Texan with his sonorous voice and songs that seem to be pure poetry.

Willie was born in Abbott, Texas not far from Waco which is famous for Baylor University, Chip and Joanna Gaines or the standoff with the Branch Davidian cult depending on what one’s interests might be. Abbott is near the heart of Texas which is a wonderful metaphor for how Willie has somehow captured the deep down spirit of the state. With his sister formerly on piano and his guitar named Trigger Willie has literally defined the soul of what it means to be the kind of Texan who loves his family, the land, and the people who live here. 

Willie wasn’t always the star that he is today. He had a tough time breaking into the world of country music. Folks thought that his voice was not right enough to sell records so they purchased his songs instead. Somehow I wonder if they ever really listened to him turn a melody into a spiritual moment with his ever recognizable and soothing voice. I know that I instantly get chills whenever I hear him sing. He makes me laugh when I am supposed to, smile as I relate to what he has to say, cry both tears of sorrow and joy. 

I like to ride around the Texas Hill country on the backroads listening to Willie’s songs. I get quite emotional on those journeys. The sheer beauty of it all speaks to my heart. Willie captures the story of Texas, of people, in the ways of one of the greatest artists of our time. I shed all of my worries in those remote spaces with Willie serenading me and teaching me about life. The best therapist in the world can’t create the calm that I feel when I listen to Willie’s songs.

Willie is already a legend and his musical reputation will grow even stronger when he dies, a time that I don’t even want to imagine. I suspect that I will break down and cry when his time to leave us comes, but he will leave behind a legacy of music that will never be out of date. It all has a universal quality that will speak to us just as great literature has always done. While I have my favorites, I can’t think of a single song that he has not made more magical than it might otherwise have been without his ability to make them come alive and feel real.

Willie just won a couple of Grammys for his album A Beautiful Time and a single for Live Forever which was his tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, a singer, songwriter and actor who touched the hearts of the country music world. Willie becomes a down home philosopher softly speaking his mind in both the album and the single. As always he manages to bring sorrows and joys together in one magnificent package that brings tears to my eyes even as I smile at what he has to say. 

Willie breaks down my facade of trying to be the strong person in the room, the one who won’t crack under pressure. I tend to hide the emotions I am feeling in a particular moment. I only seem to know how to express them in words. Willie somehow pushes down the walls that I build around myself and brings the real me to the surface. His music has the most remarkable effect on me and no doubt most people who hear it. 

I’d love to have an evening with Willie Nelson and a few of my friends and family members just sitting around telling our stories . I would not force him to play or sing, but I would definitely hope that he might volunteer to do so on his own. I’d just like to talk with him about life and music and Texas. I know he loves this state as much as I do, even though we both know the problems that it has. Somehow he has found a way to deal with the ups and downs in the most wonderful way.

Willie’s newest album for which he won a Grammy gives us a strong hit of where his mind is focused these days. He’s buried family members and friends but now has no desire to got to funerals. He simply wants to remember them as they once were. He tells us that he has had a beautiful life with few regrets. He reminds us to treat every day as if it were our last because one day we will be right in thinking that we may have hit the end of our journey. He urges us to make those phone calls and tell people how much we love them. He gently reminds us what is most important.

Willie is a survivor like most of us are. I suspect that he finds solace in making music just as I find solace in hearing him sing like an angel. Surely he will live forever through his songs, but for now I hope he is able to continue making beautiful music that erases all of my cares and woes for many years to come. I’ll be on the road again soon and I hope to take him along.  


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