Born on April 30, 1933, Willie Hugh Nelson is one of the most celebrated, recognized icons of country music and, arguably, pop culture altogether. Nelson is beloved for his down-to-earth demeanor, his undeniable charisma, and, most of all, his freewheeling brand of Texas country. While it's country he's best known for, he has never afraid to embrace different genres.
Willie Nelson's journey from unknown to music legend began in a tiny (fewer than 1,000), east Texas town called Abbott. He began taking music lessons at just six years of age, and, by age nine, he was playing guitar in a local band with his sister. Nelson continued with music in high school, working as a DJ at local radio stations. After brief stints in both the Air Force and Baylor University, Willie Nelson moved to Washington to peruse a full-time career in music. He released his first single in 1956, the marginally-popular "Lumberjack."
Seeking a bigger market, Willie Nelson moved to Nashville and struggled to land a record deal. He made money writing songs for other artists, such as Roy Orbison, Billy Walker, and Patsy Cline (Nelson wrote her timeless classic "Crazy"). Nelson released his first album in 1962 titled And Then I Wrote, and he dropped his first major-label album in 1965. The disc, Country Willie - His Own Songs, began a rich run for Nelson, as he released roughly one album per year up until the present.
Willie Nelson is known for his very diverse resume. When he wasn't crafting popular solo albums, he stayed extremely busy with activism, film roles, and numerous musical side projects and collaborations. One of his most famous side projects was the Highwaymen, a supergroup that consisted of fellow Texas country legends Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings and a certain, Arkansas-born country idol by the name of Johnny Cash. The group released three popular LP's from 1985 to 1995, and their debut Highway Man went platinum in the US.
Nelson has appeared in over 15 films and has been extremely involved in politics and social activism throughout his career. Along with John Cougar Mellencamp and Neil Young, Nelson started Farm Aid, a benefit concert to help family farmers fund their farms and pay their considerable expenses. Since the concert, Farm Aid has raised millions of dollars for small farmers, and it even helped push Congress to pass the Agriculture Credit Act of 1987, which helped farmers pay their mortgages and stay in business. He has always been outspoken when it pertains to political issues, always calling things how he sees them, even if it may upset sects of his fans or sponsors.
Over 45 years has passed since Nelson released his first album, but he remains one of the most recognizable, influential figures in American music, and one would expect his legacy to carry on for generations. He continues to play concerts and release albums that are often met with critical acclaim and commercial success.