On Tuesday, May 17, Willie Nelson’s autobiography It’s a Long Story will be released in paperback — complete with a charming new afterword. In this new chapter, Nelson reflects on the past year: his latest album, a compilation of Gershwin songs; the anniversary of Farm Aid; and even the success of It’s a Long Story (“To be honest,” he writes,” I was a little worried that my title might prove fatally prophetic — that my story would be, in fact, too long for anyone to bother with.”).
EW is proud to reveal Nelson’s afterword in its entirety, below — and be sure to pick up your copy of It’s a Long Story at your local bookstore.
FROM THE BUS, SOMEWHERE ALONG THE GREAT AMERICAN HIGHWAY
Whether a singer of songs or a writer of books, an artist is always happy to have his work presented to the world. So I’m delighted that, a year after the publication of the hardback edition of It’s a Long Story, this paperback version is now available. To be honest, I was a little worried that my title might prove fatally prophetic — that my story would be, in fact, too long for anyone to bother with. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. Reviews were kind and readers even kinder. They put up with my long-windedness and kept my story on the bestseller lists for longer than I would have ever imagined. Thank you.
Well, I’m not going to push my luck and make this addition to the book any longer than it needs to be. I’ll just catch you up with my comings and goings this past year.
First and foremost, I’m still on this blessed bus, still “on the road again,” still loving the act of performing live — which is a lot preferable to performing dead — still grateful for every opportunity to visit with my friends and fans.
On the recording front, I’m happy to report that my last album, Django and Jimmie, a collaboration with Merle Haggard, hit number one on the country charts. Always love working with Merle. Our video, by the way, “It’s All Going to Pot,” was a YouTube sensation, generating millions of hits, pardon the pun.
Talking about pot, last spring I announced the launching of Willie’s Reserve, a cannabis brand reflecting my long-standing experience and commitment to regulated, natural, and high quality strains of marijuana in United States legal markets. I feel like I’ve bought so much, it’s time to start selling it back.
Beyond celebrating pot’s pleasures, though, I remain a staunch advocate of its vital agricultural and medical benefits. Along those lines, I’ve been encouraged to learn of parents traveling to Colorado and Oregon to legally obtain the marijuana derivative cannabidiol so that, under a doctor’s care, their children’s seizures might be effectively treated.
This past summer was the thirtieth anniversary of Farm Aid. It’s another reason why, as I move toward my eighty-third year on the planet, I’m happy to be alive and kicking. I’m also sad and pissed that, after all this time, the small farmer is still struggling.
In 1985, when this effort to help the small farmer began, we raised $7 million. Now that number has grown to $48 million. Our recent benefit concert in Chicago, in addition to including my sons Luke and Micah, featured the two great men who founded this effort with me three decades ago: Neil Young and John Mellencamp.
It’s a damn shame that the small farmer is still marginalized. On the other hand, I do think, in a small way, we’ve been able to help. Beyond the money raised, we’ve also raised the public consciousness. There’s awareness today about the challenges of farming and the benefits of buying products on a local level — especially organic food — that was missing thirty years ago. Farmers’ markets have sprouted up everywhere. People realize the downside of shipping in food from hundreds of miles away — wasting money on costly fuel — when wholesome food can be grown and bought close by.
Real progress has been made, especially when it comes to spreading information about farm products. The proliferation of social media, for instance, has generated intelligent discussion.
All forms of communication help, especially when it starts at the grass-roots level. Corporate-owned newspapers and magazines can be biased, but nowadays folks are looking beyond that. Folks are hungry for the truth. Consumers are educating themselves about where and how food is grown. And that’s a good thing.
Allow me to conclude this little P.S. on a couple of musical notes. I never like straying too far from the music. I recently recorded a tribute album to my dear friend Ray Price, one of my early mentors. Fred Foster produced. I worked with both the Time Jumpers — that supergroup of Nashville musicians that includes Vince Gill — and the fine arranger Bergen White.
I also just left the studio where I completed another new album, this one composed of Gershwin songs. Along with other geniuses like Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, the Gershwins are among America’s greatest songwriters. So when I learned that the Library of Congress was awarding me the 2015 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, I was deeply honored and decided to respond the best way I know how — musically. Interpreting Gershwin in my own peculiar way has been a big thrill and another career high point.
The award, according to the Library of Congress, “celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.” I’m proud to stand along with previous awardees that include Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Carole King, and Billy Joel.
Enough talk about me.
One of the sweetest memories of this past year concerns one of my best friends, who left this world in 2002. I’m talking about Waylon Jennings. I helped put together an all-star tribute show to Waylon that was fi lmed and, by the time you’re reading this, should be widely distributed. Everyone showed up to sing songs associated with Waylon — Kris Kristofferson, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Kacey Musgraves, Alison Krauss, Bobby Bare, Waylon’s wife, Jessi Colter, and his son Shooter. I cherish the memory of the grand finale — all of us all singing “Luckenbach, Texas,” the song that, in Waylon’s words, “recaptures a world where everyone is welcome and love never dies.”
That’s the world — at least on this bus — that I’m living in today. For that reason, and many others, I consider myself a very fortunate man.
Hope to see you sometime soon,
From the book It’s A Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson with David Ritz. Copyright © 2015 by Willie Nelson. Postscript copyright © 2016 by Willie Nelson. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.