*Includes Nelson's quotes about his life and career
*Includes footnotes and a bibliography for further reading
*Includes a table of contents
"Since I was a kid, music was what I wanted to do. I thought I could make it by my own talents. That's what I wanted to prove." - Willie Nelson
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, readers can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
By the time Willie Hughes Nelson was born in 1933, several of the genres he would later cover and dominate had already passed through an entire generation of pioneering artists. The tradition of authentic country music was handed down by such groups as the Carter family, and the boundaries of style and sound were well set by the time Nelson picked up his first guitar. The pioneers of rock music had later done the same for their industry, with Buddy Holly setting the tone for clean-cut hairstyles, wholesome, non-aggressive texts, and predictable harmonic progressions to underpin his unique energy. Elvis Presley was melding rock with country and blues, but through sheer charisma, created a distinct package for the future of rock music. Given this, there was no obvious path for one such as Willie Nelson to travel with country music's pre-set expectations. Jazz artists were, in most cases, expected to possess a vocal instrument of some conventional beauty, unless they wished to pursue the comedic route, as in the case of Fats Waller, so that door seemed closed as well. The protest movement was decades away from liberating the songwriter to deal with looming social issues, and anything nearing classical music was, for a voice like Nelson's, out of the question, since he lacked a natural reverberation or depth of acoustical color in his instrument. In the world of club standards, one of Nelson's favorite repertoire types, it seemed unlikely that he could compete with his idol, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Perry Como, or dozens of other vocal stylists who depended on a specific suave from the sound of the voice.
The only clear choice for Willie Nelson's success lay in his songwriting ability, which was clever, poignant, and prolific in periods of high creativity, times in which he produced multiple hit songs in a week's time - and, in one case, within the space of one day. How Nelson broke through as a performer, however, is to some still a mystery. With extreme persistence and a little good fortune, it took him over two decades to pull off one of the greatest international singing careers, to perform with every great name in almost every non-classical genre, and to take control of the iconic renditions of his own songs. Once he reached the pinnacle of his profession as a singer, he never relinquished his position, and has toured relentlessly into his 80s, without conforming to previous industry standards for any of his genres.
American Legends: The Life of Willie Nelson looks at the life and career of one of America's most famous musicians. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Willie Nelson like never before, in no time at all.