Biographical Poetry posted November 5, 2023

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Rebel and an Icon!

Willie Nelson

by Debbie D'Arcy

At six his music love would bud
when blessed with a guitar
and singing soon was in his blood,
'twould be his guiding star.
His roots in Gospel would be strong;
in praise he'd sing with joy.
Then blues and folk would come along
and thrill this teenage boy.
So Crazy to pursue his gift,
he'd work so hard to rise
above the grey to find that lift
of fame and clear Blue Skies.
But hardship times would be unkind,
infuse his craft with stress.
He longed to scale The Wall and find
the secret of success.
From Nashville's nascent niche he'd go
Across the Borderline
to Austin, Texas, there to grow
the skill that made him shine.
At last, his sound could then align
the outlaw in his soul.
With Shotgun Willie, he'd define
the freedom of his goal.
With fire and heart, his songs would soar
and stir with vocals raw -
To all the Girls I've Loved before,
would make them yearn him more.
But On the Road Again he'd stray,
when three brides came his way.
His drink and roaming held such sway;
the fourth, his rock, would stay!
His Stardust would electrify
his Night Life and his fun
but, in between his living high,
his unpaid tax would stun.
But, Willingly, he'd always be
inspired to sing and write.
From poverty to legend'ry,
he'd shine a light so bright.
And still alive, though rumours tease,
he's prepped his last bye-bye -
just Roll me up and Smoke me (please)
(and party) when I die!
A showman with a wanderlust,
a rebel of his kind.
For you, dear Will, my love and trust -
You're Always on my Mind.

Poem of the Month contest entry



Song titles here have been used for the poetic purpose of the biography and may not necessarily apply to the context of his songs or the period.

Stanza 1 - 2 Willie Nelson was born in 1933 in Abbott, Texas. He was raised by his paternal grandparents during the Great Depression. His beloved Grandfather gave him a guitar and taught him some chords shortly before he died. Nelson went on to write, sing and play during his school years.

Stanza 3 Crazy - written 1961(famously sung by Patsy Cline); Blue Skies (1978).
He played in gigs (often at odds with his Christian upbringing), worked in various jobs and briefly enrolled in the Air Force before being discharged on medical grounds relating to a back complaint. Music was always his passion, however, and he would go to Nashville, considered the centre of country music.

Stanza 4 The Wall (2014);
By now he was often broke and didn't fit the burgeoning, corporate Nashville country music scene (hence the wall). He was gaining a reputation for being an outsider, a hard-living, hard-drinking man who wasn't prepared to adjust to any stereotype. This, in turn, led to him being one of the main figures of the 'outlaw country' subgenre that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound.

Stanza 5 - 6 Across the Borderline (1993); Shotgun Willie (1973).
He moved back to Texas, a better fit, where his aim was to showcase his music on his own terms. Hence the long-haired, bandanna-wearing, 'outlaw' performer was born, gathering himself a devoted following.

Stanza 7 - 8 To All the Girls I've Loved Before (famously sung with Julio Iglesias in 1984); On the Road Again (1980 Featured in the film, Honeysuckle Rose, in which he starred.) Both these songs reflect a life of free living, women and music. Married four times, his current marriage to Annie d'Angelo since 1991 has been described by him as the smartest thing he's ever done.

Stanza 9 - 10 Stardust (22nd album released 1978); Night Life (1963); Willingly (1961 Sung with Shirley Collie, soon to become his second wife).
Nelson finally ended up paying $6m to the IRS an agreement following an original $16m demand. The 90s would prove to be a mix of ups and downs for him. In 1991 he was devastated when his 33 year old son died in what has been described as a terrible accident. He expressed regret at the time for the pain his lifestyle has caused his 8 children.

Stanza 11-12 Roll me up and Smoke me when I Die (2012 Sung with Kristofferson and Snoop Dogg a wry musing on what should be done with their ashes); Always on my Mind (1982 Famously sung by Elvis Presley)
He has suffered serious bouts of pneumonia and emphysemia over the years, not least, in part, to his excessive smoking and Marijuana use. More recently in 2022, he was severely affected by Covid.

He continues to perform and was this year inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Over the years he has been politically active, supporting such causes as animal welfare, Farm Aid, legalisation of Marijuana and much more.
Occasional actor (e.g. The Electric Horseman), prolific song-writer/singer and guitarist he is, without doubt, one of the all-time greats in country and blues music.

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