It's a Long Story

My Life

[Amazon Link]

Billed on the inside cover flap as "the definitive autobiography of Willie Nelson", which invites a derisive comment: as opposed to those other non-definitive autobiographies?

Well yes. A couple pages in, on the "also by Willie Nelson" page, there's Willie: An Autobiography, published back in 2000 or so (but still in print). Given his copious cannabis consumption, he might have forgotten he wrote that one. Or maybe he just needed to shake the money tree again.

On the back jacket, one of the blurbs says Willie is "one of those rare American icons that you're just not allowed to dislike". Certainly, he has a lot of positive qualities: he's a prodigious musical talent, and is eager to share his success in collaboration with other musicians. The most entertaining parts of the book are about his early life, where he's scrabbling to make a career out of songwriting and playing. Everybody knows that's a tough career path, and there are detours along the way into encyclopedia sales, disk jockeying, and farming, all over the US and occasionally in Canada. There are endless conflicts with The Suits, who never buy into Willie's artistic vision of the moment, and are inevitably proved wrong.

Willie's generous with his praise of his friends and fellow musicians, and he's also quick to quote their praise of him. A close second in praiseworthiness is marijuana, to which Willie attributes his long life. (He gave up on tobacco and booze decades ago.) Why, did you know that Thomas Jefferson used hemp paper to draft the Declaration of Independence? If you didn't know that, you must not know any potheads; I think every one of them has told me that at some point. (But, yeah, probably not. Mamas, don't let your babies believe musicians trying to be historians.)

Willie's also quite religious, with a "spiritual" version of Christianity, infused with lots of Khalil Gibran, Edgar Cayce, astrology, and the like. Conveniently, his religion never seems to prevent him from doing whatever he feels like doing at the time. (He has apparently settled down with his fourth wife; they've been married since 1991.)

The book touches lightly on his political activism: pot legalization (of course!), his Farm Aid concerts, and a general willingness to believe any fool thing uttered by a Democrat. The book doesn't mention his 9/11 Trutherism or his anti-GMO activism. Maybe that would seem to complicate the story of someone you're "not allowed to dislike." .