Willie Nelson turns 85 in April, and mortality is on his mind. His last album, 2017’s God’s Problem Child, featured both cheeky looks at the rumors surrounding his health (on “Still Not Dead,” he sang, “the internet said I had passed away/but you can’t believe a damn thing that they say”) and sober reflections on growing old (he opened the album’s first single, “Old Timer,” by singing “you had your run/and it’s been a good one/seems like the world is passing you by”).
Morbid or not, Nelson is always working, and in April, he’ll release his latest studio album, the appropriately titled Last Man Standing. On the album’s first single, released Friday, Nelson surrounds himself with young musicians to take a jaunty look at what it means to watch your friends move on while you’re still in the here and now.
“I don’t want to be the last man standing,” Nelson sings in the chorus, “but wait a minute, maybe I do.” It’s not an unfamiliar sentiment among members of Nelson’s cohort—Jerry Lee Lewis, two years Nelson’s junior, released an album by the same name back in 2006 (though in The Killer’s voice, it felt more like a boast than a lament). This tune isn’t doom-and-gloom, though. Rather, it’s an uptempo honky-tonk that Nelson sings in sepia-toned studio footage in the music video, imagining an afterlife where he might get on a tour bus with his departed pals and keep on jamming. All things considered, there are probably worse ways to contemplate death as an octogenarian.
Nelson’s age hasn’t kept him from making new pals, either. A few days ago, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D took to Twitter to talk about the experience he had listening to the Sirius XM station Willie’s Roadhouse:
Had to pull car over having listened to a Flawless song written and sang by Willie Nelson called You Ought To Hear Me Cry. On @SiriusXM willies roadhouse
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) February 14, 2018
“You Ought to Hear Me Cry” is one of Nelson’s less-beloved tunes, one of the songs he wrote back in his Nashville days. It was recorded by country stars of the 1960s—Carl Smith and Johnny Bush both had minor hits with it—and the version Chuck D heard was almost certainly the one that appeared on Nelson’s 1977 album Before His Time. Chuck D is right—it is a flawless song, and the tweet led to one of the cuter exchanges we’ve seen lately:
The fact that Willie Nelson knows who I am is kinda fkn me up today. Plus DR J requesting that I be a guest on HIS new radio show this @NBA All Star Weekend podcast is doing the same thing to me. Im Like woah , really?!?
— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) February 15, 2018
The exchange suggests, of course, that Willie will never really be the last man standing—so long as he’s making new friends along the way, he’ll always have a batch of people to keep up with his hell-raising.