Willie Nelson: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize
Singer and songwriter Willie Nelson was the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The all-star tribute featured performances by Nelson, as well as Edie Brickell, Leon Bridges, Rosanne Cash, Ana Gabriel, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Neil Young, Promise of the Real, Buckwheat Zydeco and past Gershwin Prize honoree Paul Simon — with Don Was as music director. With a career that spans six decades, Willie Nelson’s music pushes genre boundaries and his lyrics give voice to America’s heartland. He put his imprint forever on country music and introduced it to new audiences by expanding music’s avenues in the ‘70s to create “outlaw country.” He has continually broadened his musical language, crossing into jazz, blues, folk, rock and Latin styles. A guitar virtuoso with a unique voice, Nelson is an artist whose work continues to inspire new musicians of diverse genres.
With 200-plus recordings, this iconic Texan is the creative genius behind the historic albums Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger and Stardust. He is also the songwriter of many country-music standards, including “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Nelson has earned numerous awards as a musician and earned extensive credentials as an author, actor and activist. He continues to thrive as a relevant and progressive musical and cultural force. In June, he released a new collaboration with Merle Haggard, Django and Jimmie, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album chart and in the Top 10 (No. 7) on the Billboard 200 Bestselling Albums chart.
In the last five years he delivered nine other new releases, one of which received a Grammy Award nomination; released a New York Times best seller; graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine; headlined Farm Aid — an event he co-founded in 1985 — and received his 5th-degree black belt in Gongkwon Yusul. In 2013, Nelson released Let’s Face The Music and Dance, an album of pop-country repertoire classics performed with patented ease by Nelson and Family — his long-time touring and recording ensemble — and To All The Girls…, which features 18 duets with music’s top female singers. In 2014, he released Band of Brothers, a 14-track studio album of new recordings that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Album chart and at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chart.