|Words and photo by F LoBuono|
Now, I have always enjoyed his music but I am certainly not a rabid fan. In fact, I have never purchased any of his music. However, every time that I have listened to him perform, I have never been dissatisfied. And, from what I have read and heard of his personality, Willie is said to be "real". In fact, many people consider him an American legend. Certainly, judging from his success and the amount of testimonials from his peers and contemporaries lavished upon him, it would be hard to argue with that assessment. However, outside of the brief impression that I can make during the five or six minute interview we conducted with him, I cannot accurately attest to that as fact or fiction. What I can say is this: Willie is showing his age. His face is lined and as craggy as a Rocky Mountain outcropping. It seems to tell a tale of all the back roads and honkey tonks of America, without flinching. His hands are swollen and his fingers gnarled from the years of guitar picking. I could almost smell the stale beer and cigarette smoke of some long forgotten, whole-in-the-wall venue - the type that I'm sure Willie played in for years before he made it big, and probably still does!
But when he took the stage, his genius become readily apparent. He played mainly with his son (a MONSTER musician in his own right) and his son's band. They took no prisoners! Again, age and a life lived to the fullest, have taken a toll, but not to the point to detract from his musical brilliance. His voice, although not as strong as in years past, was still distinctive and moving. His guitar playing was also not as crisp as it was when he was in his prime, but he more than made up for any shortcomings with the incredible passion his put behind his music. He was ALIVE!! He is a warrior, a musical warrior. The reason that I use this term to describe him is that a warrior dedicates his life to the cause he believes in. A warrior may fail but he never stops. He always gives all of himself to the task at hand. So it was with Willie Nelson. He came to play and play he did. He held nothing back. He gave to his audience and they gave it back to him. His passion for his craft has not waned and it showed.
Yes, Willie, 80 is just a number - a number that should I reach, I would be blessed to approach it with the same passion for my craft as you. Mr. Nelson, you inspired me today!