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INCOMING: Return Of The Red-Headed Stranger

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A man who needs no last name, Willie is to Country what Neil is to rock: the Buddha, bestowing laid-back grace on all those who bask in his benevolent THC-tinged glow. Born April 30, 1933, in Abbott, Texas, Nelson begins writing songs at age seven. After serving briefly in the Air Force during the Korean War and studying agriculture at Baylor University, Nelson moves through a series of luckless, low-paying career changes– from disc jockey to door-to-door vacuum and encyclopedia salesman. By 1958, in dire financial straits and married with children, Nelson is forced to sell his songs for cheap (“Night Life,” later a hit for Ray Price, went for the princely sum of $150). By 1961, he’s inked a proper publishing deal, which results in Patsy Cline turning Nelson’s “Crazy” into a Country gold mine. In 1975, he releases Red Headed Stranger, pioneering the “Outlaw Country” movement–along with Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash–with stripped-down honky-tonkisms and the most soulful nasal twang since Hank the First. Red Headed Stranger is a marvel of American beauty. After all the highs (lending a helping hand to the American farmer and smoking a joint on the roof of the White House) and the lows (that duet with Julio Iglesias; the 16 million-dollar raft of shit from the IRS, and, as a result, his shilling for Taco Bell), he has become the embodiment of everything that is good and right about the American experience. Willie Nelson headlines the Outlaw Music Festival — which features Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss and Gov’t Mule — at The Mann on September 13th. This you don’t want to miss. Trust me: There are few moments more soulful in this life than hearing “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” take wing on a summer breeze. – JONATHAN VALANIA

RELATED: Our guest is Willie Nelson, who at age 86, has a summer tour and a new album. We’ll listen back to two of Terry’s conversations with Willie Nelson, from 1996 and again in 2006, about music and why he never quite fit in as a country star. MORE

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