"Since I was a kid, music was what I wanted to do. I thought I could make it by my own talents. That's what I wanted to prove." - Willie Nelson
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
By the time Willie Hughes Nelson was born in 1933, several of the genres he would later cover and dominate had already passed through an entire generation of pioneering artists. The tradition of authentic country music was handed down by such groups as the Carter family, and the boundaries of style and sound were well set by the time Nelson picked up his first guitar. The pioneers of rock music had later done the same for their industry, with Buddy Holly setting the tone for clean-cut hairstyles, wholesome, non-aggressive texts, and predictable harmonic progressions to underpin his unique energy. Elvis Presley was melding rock with country and blues, but through sheer charisma, created a distinct package for the future of rock music. Given this, there was no obvious path for one such as Willie Nelson to travel with country music's pre-set expectations. Jazz artists were, in most cases, expected to possess a vocal instrument of some conventional beauty, unless they wished to pursue the comedic route, as in the case of Fats Waller, so that door seemed closed as well.