M1 So what was your first impression of him when you when you first heard his music, it? Yeah.

M2 Oh, well, Will is unique, my friend. I'm sure you know that already. I'm not kidding you. You don't know. What I like about Willie is he has this unique sound. Nobody sounds like him. And I mean, this is really what I think makes any artist outstanding when they have their own identity. Nobody in the world I mean, you know, it's like saying, you know, it's like saying that King Cole, the Ella Fitzgerald or Barbra Streisand, you know, they have their own sound. They can sing one note and you know who it is. But winners like that, he's saying one way he plays his guitar is his own style. He is he's quite unique.

M3 And above all, what I what I love about him as a as a person is that he he doesn't have, I don't think wittedness and has. What you say, you know nothing and an evil. Part in his body.

M9 I don't I don't think he he I don't think he he he has anything about him that in my mind anyway, that is distasteful when it is a very soft, easygoing person. You know, you heard that phrase about what you see is what you get. What really is is like that, which you see is really.

M11 What you get. How would you describe the sound that he's got, it's so unique. How would you describe can you describe put into words what his sound is?

M5 No, you can't. You see, I'm not at least maybe somebody else could, but I can't. I'm not that good. I can't.

M9 I just know, as I said a few minutes ago, it's very different. It's very unique. The sound and he gets for is the way he plays it is his guitar. This is the way that he he he emphasizes his notes and make them meaningful.

M5 But if you say I don't know how how to you know, it's like asking me, how do you describe love? I mean, I know what it is, but I can't describe it. I know what he's doing, but I can't tell you. I can't describe to you.

M1 Now, it's interesting to watch his band members because. They play the same song every night, most of the guys have been with them for 30 years, and they play the same thing over and over and over again, but they're always on their toes because they never know.

M7 Well, you see what it is they see. But what it is, what you must realize, it's just like myself. I play the same songs every night, too. But the difference, what happens when, you know, you don't you don't do it the same way every night. You don't perform it the same way. But it's not like classical music where you must play the exact same notes the exact same time. Exactly what's on the table. You don't when you're doing contemporary and you don't have to do that. You can just let yourself through. You can let yourself take over. So you may not want to start the song on the first beat. You might want to start on the second beat, on the third beat own in between beats or whatever you can do, whatever you whatever you feel, you can do that.

M2 And of course, that's why, you know you know, I can tell you that when people say like Willie Nelson to myself, when we're doing songs over and over and over and over, that's true. But they're never the same.

M1 Really, really never the same because he's got no sense of rhythm.

M12 Now, you said that I did. I said I did not say wittedness don't have no sense of rhythm. I think he got more rhythm.

M11 The most people phrasing is always a little odd. What do you think about his phrasing?

M5 I love the we just want say about how laid back he is, you know, when he plays. I like that. I love his style. I really do. Is it's very, very, very different. That's all I can say it. I know I sound repetitive, but, you know, that's the way it is.

M7 I mean, he's he's got this real laid back easy. In other words, he doesn't hurt your ears, period.

M6 No. For his phrasing.

M1 What do you think about his? He's obviously a lot more than just kind of got a reputation for just being a country singer, but. People that know him know that he's got so much more, he's really done good jazz albums and good blues album.

M10 What do you think of them in that respect, beyond the scope of country? How is the.

M2 I just think it really is or isn't all around musician. I mean, you know, I mean, you know, he's identified with country music, you know, which is OK. There's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I know some guys in the country music playing by himself, you know, so, you know, it's all right if folk want to identify him with it, with country music, just like some people want to identify me with with rhythm and blues, you know, but everybody knows I play all kinds of different stuff and so does Willie, you know, you know, in his own way, you know, whatever whatever Willie does, he does it his way. And that's what makes him so unique. You know, he can just fit into anything as long as you let him be Willie Nelson.

M1 It's OK. You remember where you were the first time you heard his music?

M2 Oh, no, I can't. I mean, I couldn't. And I know that I go around too much. That would be totally impossible. There's no way in hell I could remember when I first heard anybody remember the first time you played with him.

M3 Oh, now that's a good. Question. I'm just you know, that's a very good question. I. Maybe you add, you know. That is so good, I can't I'm trying to think I think maybe we do. I'm not sure. I think we did a television thing or something. In Austin, Texas, oh, man, my memory is just too bad, I kind of like playing with him. What was it like playing with. Oh, come on, it's fun. Fun, nothing but pure fun, you know, no errors, no ego trips, none of that.

M4 You know, when you were really you just you you enjoy yourself, you know, it ain't no hang ups.

M3 You know what I mean, no ego trips, as I say, you know, you just enjoy the moment. That's what I do.

M1 Do you think you guys relate to each other on a personal level, having been through similar struggles for.

M2 Yeah, well, you know, we were very much in tune with each other in that I love him very much, I have to tell you very, very deeply, you know, he's he's my type of human being. You know, I just love him because he's so natural in in every way in his music and, you know, his personality. You know, he's he's he's just a very humble person. And I don't know, he's magnetic. I guess that's the only way I can put witnesses, the kind of person he draws people to him. You know, you can't help but like him. There's no way I've never met anybody that didn't like Willie Nelson. That's the truth. And I mean that from my heart.

M1 What do you mean by that style of like playing behind the beat back breathing when I saw.

M2 That's what makes him him. That's what makes Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson. What he does, he does it. Best of all, I feel he has that laid back thing. And I've said it earlier in the interview, but that's what makes him him, if you know what I mean.

M11 Are there any songs that you really love that you look forward to hearing?

M5 Oh, I don't know, I I did a song with him that I did, I really loved it called Angel Eyes, beautiful song. Of course, you know, we did have this hit Seven Spanish Angels, but but I love to hear him sing his angel. I mean, it's very, very different. It's so good.

M11 What is it about that song that makes it special?

M2 Well, it's just the way he does it, man. I mean, you know you know, it is pretty hard to answer a question that's really like the like because what can you say? You know, I mean, I love the man's sound. No.

M7 One, the way he sounds and I love the way he plays his music, you know, so to take a song like like Angel Eyes and we just sit back and say, hey, you know, go for it, you know, he sings what he sings. I say what I think, and that's it. But it's very, very nice when when you're with somebody who's just who's so relaxed, so in tune with himself, you know, no heirs, no nothing. Just, hey, man, let's just sit here and do the music. That's why I love him so much. He's he's you know, he's he just straight ahead. Yeah.

M1 And I'm amazed that he's had a career now that that's probably 50 years old.

M5 Yeah, well, I don't find that amazing. I think somebody once said to me, and I'll never forget it, they said good is good.

M3 I like that. It's a simple statement, but it's so true. Good is good.

M4 You know, I mean, even after we leave this earth, if you've left if you did good music, it will always be there. Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, Degas and Bach and all these people, they've been dead for 400 years and he's still around you. I mean, so if you if you do good music, I think in my mind it'll last forever.

M5 I think Duke Ellington's music will be around for ever, period. I think Willie Nelson has a sound that if you listen to it 100 years from today, it's still be good. Still going to sound good.

M1 Some some stuff sounds good, and 10 years later, you're like, oh, man, I can't believe. I like that stuff.

M5 Well, I. I don't I don't I don't you know, I know what you're saying, but I don't think that's true. If you related to what I'm saying.

M7 If something is good, if you make a good case, it's a good bit end of story. If you if you cook some good food, it's good food and nothing will change that period, you know. So if you do a good performance and outstanding performance, that's going to be an outstanding performance. And even if you show that performance a hundred years from that day, it still will be a good performance. You see, I still say good is good. Sometimes we get excited and we get hung up, you know, with with, you know, with fans and we get hung up with something that comes along and it catches our attention, you know, and we start to go for it.

M2 But because music is like that, you know, you always have these different fans that come through music all the time, always has been and always will be.

M3 But the good stuff will always be around it. Don't go away. You know, the people I mean start are still around. You know, it ain't going nowhere. You know what I mean, your body, soul, or it's not going anyplace, you know, all the good stuff is going to be around forever.

M1 I guess I guess my point, this history is kind of cruel to artists, all different types of artists to do something. It seems like it's great at the time. And then 10 years later, it's kind of become. A passing fad that's no longer really good and somehow you and Willy managed to stand the test of time.

M2 Well, all I can say, man, is what I just said. You know, I don't want to keep repeating myself, but I still say that the good stuff I mean, what I hear stuff of Nat King Cole that he did years, years, years ago, in 1940, still good today.

M3 You know, I hear stuff of Frank Sinatra, 1938, 1939, not 1940 back, you know, still good today. So you can't get away from that. You've got to realize there's a difference between something that is really good and something that is a passing fancy.

M4 You know, there's a lot of things that come through music and captured people's attention and they love it and really enjoy it. And like you said, you know, 10 years later, none of I know what the hell happened. You know, I mean, I remember a guy took a tape recorder and speeded up and ended a song on it, and they called it the Chipmunks. And the thing sold millions, you know. But I mean, after that, it's gone. You see, you know, I expect something like that. But it was big when it was out there.

M1 It was really it is there. You think there's a realness. It's not that he's a good guitar player. I mean, why is Willie survived so many years and why is he now timeless?

M5 Well, I'm just going to say this for the last time, he survived because he's unique.

M3 These different. He survives because it ain't but one wiliness, and that's why she when you find people who have their own true identity, you know, they're going to survive. If they ever make it, they're going to survive because they're the one and only Caneva one Willie Nelson. I mean, let's be honest about it. Is like in period. So that's why he's going to survive. You know, you don't it's not to Willie Nelson's is just one.

M1 All right. My last question is we're talking to Waylon Jennings and he said if you want to kill Willie Nelson, just take him off the road. Just think it's really interesting, he's like a gypsy who just loves being on the road and loves playing. He doesn't like being in the studio and doesn't like being in one place too long. What do you think that's all about?

M2 Well, hey, you know, we all have our own desires, don't we? And if he likes the road, I'm kind of like that, too, because he wanted it where the road is people. That's what he's really saying.

M3 And it's nice to have people not only come to hear you, but spend good money.

M4 So it's not like the jokin is not free, and yet they come to you and you and you up there in front of thousands of people and making them feel good for an hour and a half of whatever the time is your stage, you know, it is wonderful because, you know, the people can come to you, so you have to go to them.

M2 That's why you're on the road going from place to place. But you're making so many people happy.

M4 You know, you're making so many people feel better about themselves, even if it's only for an hour and a half or two hours. You're making people happy where they can forget about their woes, at least for a few minutes, you know. So it's good to to to take your music to the people. You know, I guess is kind of like in the old days how the preachers used to take their message to the people, you know, travel around there and have revival meetings, you know, and that's what we do. We travel around and take our music and try to make people feel good about themselves. And in doing that, of course, naturally, it makes us feel good to.

M1 So you get two for one, I think for really that's like his blood.

M4 For Willy, that's like his life. Well, of course it is, of course, you know, it's a great thing, man, but like I say, because you you know, you're making other people happy. Plus you enjoy and you said you're getting you're getting a kick out of your music. You're having a good time on stage. You know, it's like being at a party, you know, and you're the center of attraction.

Ray Charles
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
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"Ray Charles, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 01 Jan. 2002,
(2002, January 01). Ray Charles, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Ray Charles, Willie Nelson: Still is Still Moving." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). January 01, 2002. Accessed May 20, 2022


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