NOV 18, 2015
Willie Nelson Receives Gershwin Prize from Library of Congress
Almost every year since March 01, 2007, the Library of Congress has presented a lifetime achievement award to an influential musician and composer in the music community for Popular Song. Recipients from Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney to Paul Simon, Carole King and Billy Joel have received from the hand of the President (so far it’s been Obama) this prestigious award and have participated in a grand concert for a small group of invited guests at the White House and a larger audience at the Library of Congress. The performance is then broadcast on PBS for everyone to enjoy!
This year the recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Music is Willie Nelson. He is an icon of Popular Music in so many ways.
From a boy with simple roots, he has grown to become a Nationally Renowned cool guy with two long braids and a devil-may-care attitude. He founded an organization that allows musicians to give back to family farmers in big way in the form of Farm Aid concerts since 1985 (there are two cofounders: Neil Young and John Mellencamp). Farm Aid is an appropriate charity for many musicians, since so many come from places that are the backbone of America. The family farm is one of our nation’s sources of wholesome stability that give us the strength to be who we are as Americans. The land is large, so once you have people, they need to eat. And that’s about all you need when you come down to it. So supporting our nation’s farmers is a necessity and who better to understand that than all the people who benefit from a farm every day.
Willie did begin his career in country music but, as you will understand if you have ever been to a live concert of his, he doesn’t mess around. He just is who he is and takes no prisoners. As you watch Willie flanked on each side by his two sons onstage singing to the crowd, you get the feeling he couldn’t tell a lie if he wanted to. He’d probably insult you if you are easily insulted. He’d probably help you if he thought you needed it and he could. He’d be off making a song and having fun and you wouldn’t notice it until he was gone, because he’s just a do-it-my-own-way kind of guy. Luckily for us his “own way” is creative and kind and a little badass.
Some people are just too honest for the rest, but if they have the bravery to go with it and follow through on their plans then it’s all worthwhile in the end–for them and the rest of the world… They don’t give up.
It was inspiring to me as a singer to watch him because, although he had recently had an experimental operation on his stomach to add longevity to his vocal and lung capacity, he did right by his time on stage and rested in the moments he needed to and pushed through in the moments which he was clearly proving his relevance to popular culture and American history.
He gave the ol’ guitar licks his all. And I mean his all! Blues on the Willie Nelson special Trigger, banging out some blues picking on an acoustic guitar that’s almost as old as he is. If his voice wasn’t as strong, he made up for it with the reflection of his guitar runs. And he and his boys stood straight and sang the blues like it was just one other night in the history of Willie Nelson’s life.
And everybody sang along to On the Road Again at the end and cheered for his lifetime achievements.
The only song he bothered to introduce at length was this one. He said it seems apt right now.
Give us your tired and weak
And we will make them strong.
Bring us your foreign songs
And we will sing along.
Leave us your broken dreams
We’ll give them time to mend.
There’s still a lot of love
Living in the Promiseland …