Discover more from Okay History
Big Willie Style
The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History April 24 - 30.
Happy Maundy Monday, my Okay History friends. Hope you enjoyed The Weekend. Did you have chicken and waffles?
Thanks for being here.
One of my many good traits is that I grew up on country music. That’s probably not a trait one possesses; it’s more a taste or a preference. But I think you can gain insight into anyone by the type of music they listen to.
Therefore, you can surmise that I’m broke, drink a lot, and no one loves me.
All good qualities.
Having said that, I think today’s country music is hot garbage. I occasionally listen to Bro-Country because another trait of mine is damaging myself with hot garbage, like watching the latest season of The Mandalorian or not exercising enough.
But this week, we celebrate a country music icon. Willie Nelson was born on April 29, 1933.
1933. That’s a long time ago—90 years, in fact.
Holy moly, Willie Nelson is turning 90.
Willie Nelson was born in a small Texas town called Abbott, which has about 14 people living there at any given time.
His mother left him shortly after he was born. His father remarried, and then he dipped out, which meant Willie was raised by his grandparents. Fortunately, his grandparents were heavily involved in music at their church and bestowed that passion on their grandchildren.
Nelson was gifted a guitar at six, and he turned that gift into a talent with his songwriting ability immediately after.
Willie was a heck of an athlete growing up. In high school, he was a running back in football, a shooting guard in basketball, and played shortstop in baseball. By the time he graduated in 1950, Nelson had joined a band. He was an all-around talented kid.
He joined the Air Force but dropped out. He attended Baylor University, then dropped out. He traveled to the west coast working in radio stations but then dropped out. He moved back to Texas to focus full-time on country music songwriting and hasn’t dropped out since.
In 1962 his debut album was released …And Then I Wrote. Throughout the 60s and 70s, Nelson continued to write well-received songs. Willie was in his 30s and 40s in the 1960s and 70s, in case you weren’t doing the math.
Nelson is most known for his association with Outlaw Country, which fought for their collective artistic freedom from the corporate Nashville scene. Teaming up with Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash, the Highwaymen changed country music for the better in the mid-80s through the mid-90s, when Willie was in his 50s and 60s.
He sort of dropped off in his 70s and 80s as the new century arrived. Coincidentally that’s when hot garbage began to slowly take over country music.
One impressive aspect of Willie Nelson’s life was his commitment to family farms. In 1985, he and others began Farm Aid, a benefit concert that helped raise money and awareness of family farmers nationwide. Nelson has appeared in every event that continues to this day.
So Happy Birthday, Willie. Your style, whether that was the buttoned-up suit-wearing of your early days, to your iconic braided hair bandana fashion that we’ve known for most of your years – you were never hot garbage. Your music and activism have had an impact we are all grateful for.
Okay History is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
1. Spain declared war on the US on April 24, 1898. The country famous for taking long naps during the workday woke up and demanded war against the US for interfering with their fight over Cuba’s independence. After whipping them in about three minutes like a game of RISK, we picked up Puerto Rico, Gaum, and the Philippines. Spain went back to sleep.
2. Georgia voted to remove Confederate Flag on April 25, 2003. In 1956 Georgia incorporated the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia after state Senator Jefferson Lee Davis introduced it. That’s right, the man’s name was Jefferson. Lee. Davis. I’m not kidding. It is the most Confederate name I have ever heard of. He probably went by the nickname Stonewall or JEB.
3. The Louisiana Purchase was finalized on April 30, 1803. After negotiating with France, the US paid 15 million dollars for almost 1 million square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. From this moment forward, all tornadoes became American.
There are many wonderful Willie Nelson songs, and I can’t figure out his best, so here are three.
There’s On the Road Again. Which a bunch of celebrities destroyed in a stupid bank commercial during the NCAA basketball tournament last month.
Good Hearted Woman is a song that pops up when I scramble my iTunes.
To All the Girls I Loved Before could be the theme of my life.
What’s your favorite Willie Nelson song?
Comment below, and if you like Wille, be sure to hit that like button.
I’ll be back Friday with another Amendment ranking, along with footnotes, and I’m still promoting an introduction sale for Even More Okay, until Memorial Day. I’m working on the next edition, which should be out soon.
I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and I’ll talk to you later.