Willie Nelson: 5 Of The Best

Willie Nelson: 5 Of The Best

willie nelson
Willie Nelson. Photo by Jay Dickman/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.

With a massive catalogue of hits spanning seven decades, 30+ film appearances, activism and philanthropy, there really is plenty to celebrate about country icon Wille Nelson! We're saying happy birthday to Nashville’s original country outlaws – whose vigilance, passion and homespun delivery are all-time legendary –  with 5 of his best. Enjoy below. 


Crazy is through and through a country standard, the song’s brash, unique phrasing was made famous by Patsy Cline’s 1961 recording but was originally written by a then up and coming young Willie Nelson who had just arrived from Austin, Texas looking to break through the Nashville scene. He first pitched the demo to Grand Ole Opry member Bill Walker, but Walker declared it too feminine, so Nelson tried his luck with Patsy Cline instead. Turns out he was casually shopping around one of the 20th century’s greatest ballads. 

'On The Road Again'

Highway glory and the untapped finery of life experience are at the centre of this ode to an outlaw country singer. In 1980, Nelson scored his first leading role in the film Honeysuckle Rose – a movie about a musician who lived his life on the road. Shortly after signing the contract, he was on an aeroplane with the film’s director Jerry Schatzberg and executive producer Sydney Pollack who told him they were looking for songs for the soundtrack. Nelson subsequently penned his entry on the spot, writing the lyrics to what would become one of country’s most iconic crossover hits on the back of an airsick bag before the flight landed. 

It won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Song a year later.

'Funny How Time Slips Away'

Nearly half a dozen artists have made a Top 40 hit out of one of Nelson’s earliest songs, Funny How Time Slips Away which he wrote in the same prolific week that he penned Crazy and another of his big hits, Night Life. As time marches on, the song has proved itself timeless, evolving with its writer more than he could have ever predicted. 

'Heaven and Hell'

In this anthem of ambivalence, Willie sums up the conundrum of life in the opening lyric, and expresses the ups and downs of married life with an all-encompassing phrase: "Sometimes it's heaven, sometimes it's hell, and sometimes I don't even know."

'Always on My Mind'

Always on My Mind was written by the songwriting trio of Johnny Christopher, Mark James and Wayne Carson Thompson and recorded by a number of artists, including Brenda Lee in 1971 and Elvis Presley in 1972. While every version had its charms and successes, it was Nelson’s vulnerable exposé that earned the singer three Grammy awards in 1982, including Song of The Year, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, and Best Country Song.


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