Willie Nelson began his legendary musical career as a young boy in Abbott, Texas. After his father passed away, his mother left Nelson and his sister Bobbie in the care of grandparents, who encouraged both children to play instruments. Willie had a quick affinity for the guitar, and by age seven was writing original songs. After paying his dues as a rambling honky tonk singer and sometime DJ, Nelson wound up in Nashville during the 1960s where he quickly attracted the notice of top country stars who recorded his compositions. Ray Price ("Nite Life"), Patsy Cline ("Crazy"), Faron Young ("Hello Walls"), and BillyWalker ("Funny How Time Slips Away") made huge commercial hits with songs that are still country standards today.
Nelson's writing success gave him entrée to record his own music--though not a commercial success these early singles earned him a small but devoted following. In the early '70s, Nelson and Waylon Jennings became central figures in a blossoming "outlaw" country movement-a rock and folk influenced style that challenged the overly produced "Nashville Sound" embraced by the country music industry at the time. Nelson's commercial breakthrough came in 1975, when his album Red Headed Stranger was a giant hit for Columbia Records. His bittersweet rendition of Roy Acuff's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" put Nelson on the map for good.
Nelson remained at the top of the country charts through the 1980s, when rebellious public antics and an infamous battle with the IRS brought about a temporary demise in his popularity. During the '90s, Nelson climbed back into the limelight with a steady stream of recordings both traditional and progressive, which became popular among a younger audience seeking an alternative to the homogenized pop sounds of contemporary country music. Now in the fortieth year of his musical career, Nelson remains a vital icon for alternative country and new traditionalist movements. His repertoire of classic songs and new recordings offer an essential legacy for generations to come.
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