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Willie Nelson

Nelson, Willie, 1933–, American country singer, guitarist, and songwriter, b. Abbott, Tex. Nelson began playing professionally at 10 and joined a western swing band as a teenager. In the 1960s he moved to Nashville, where he became a successful songwriter, composing such tunes as "Funny How Time Slips Away" and the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy." Nelson returned to Texas in the 1970s and during that decade came into his own as a performer, creating the blues-rock-country hybrid known as "outlaw music" and becoming enormously popular. He achieved great success with the albums Shotgun Willie (1973) and Red Headed Stranger (1975) (containing the hit "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain") and also began performing widely in concert tours, singing for a country-crossover audience. Among his later albums are Wanted: The Outlaws (1976), Stardust (1978), City of New Orleans (1984), The Promised Land (1986), Across the Borderline (1993), Teatro (1998), and the comprehensive collection One Hell of a Ride (2008). Nelson had federal tax problems in the 1980s, but they were resolved by the 1990s, in part with revenues from The IRS Tapes (1991). He has performed in a number of films, including The Electric Horseman (1979), Honeysuckle Rose (1980), and Wag the Dog (1998), and is well known for sponsoring Farm Aid concerts.

See biography by J. N. Patoski (2008).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Music: Popular and Jazz: Biographies

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