Willie

We’ve learned a lot from Willie over the years, and the biggest lesson became the guiding philosophy for the stories we tell on this page: When life gets hard, Willie Nelson gives people a song. And Texas Monthly gives people Willie Nelson.
Willie at the fourth of july picnic

Willie Nelson onstage during the 1980 Fourth of July Picnic, at the Pedernales Country Club, in Spicewood.

Photograph by Scott Newton

“According to my grandmother,” Willie Nelson once said, “the definition of music is anything that’s pleasing to the ear. Once I learned that, I quit thinking about it.”

That’s a perfect Willie quote. It touches on family and music, the two things that matter to him most. Like the songs he’s written, it’s clean, short, and simple on its face, with a dose of his signature everyman humility. Since 1962, Willie has recorded an astounding 143 albums in just about every genre but hip-hop and heavy metal. If you’ve ever wondered why he has ranged so widely, the quote explains it: apparently Willie heard something in the various styles and songs he’s explored that made him feel good. And he never worried about whether that made sense to anyone else; his grandmother told him it didn’t matter.

Last summer, some editors at the magazine broached the unthinkable: What do we publish when Willie is gone? It’s a question that media outlets around the world have asked every time he’s canceled a tour date in the past twenty years. But our answer was immediate and resounding: Screw that. We need to celebrate Willie—to thank him—right now.

Willie Nelson Platon

So we embarked on a special issue … and a few other projects. On this page you’ll find new essays on Willie’s singular stature as a songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, humanitarian, and, oddly, landlord; each episode of our podcast “One by Willie” features a conversation with one prominent Willie fan about one Willie song that they really love; a comprehensive ranking of every album Willie has released; as well as an animated video of Willie’s epic 2016 ACL Festival performance. And, of course, Texas Monthly has been covering Willie Nelson since 1973, so there’s so much more.

We’ve learned a lot from Willie over the years, and the biggest lesson became the guiding philosophy for this special project: When life gets hard, Willie Nelson gives people a song. And Texas Monthly gives people Willie Nelson.

Willie: A Special Issue

willie nelson landlord
Willie Nelson, Landlord

Oct 8, 2020 By John Spong

Most Willie Nelson fans know at least a little about his idyllic Hill Country world headquarters, home to his ranch, his golf course, his recording studio, and his Old West movie set, Luck, Texas. But lesser known in the lore is Willie World’s gritty urban prototype, a sprawling…

All 143 Willie Nelson Albums, Ranked

The recording career of country music’s greatest artist, surveyed, sized up, and sorted on the occasion of his 87th birthday.

willie nelson albums ranked

From the archives

Willie Nelson outside of Buck Owens’s Crystal Palace, in Bakersfield, California, in 1998.
Willie at 65

Apr 1, 1998 By Gary Cartwright

The Red Headed Stranger is about to be eligible for Medicare? Ain’t it funny how time slips away.

Willie Nelson in his motor coach on February 5, 1991, listening to the IRS Tapes after his property was seized by the agency.
Poor Willie

Apr 30, 1991 By Robert Draper

When the IRS seized all that Willie Nelson had, it was a case of the man who can’t say no meeting the men who won’t take no for an answer.