16 Songs, 54 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Distilling a career as long and legendary as Willie Nelson’s into just 16 songs demands limits. This set features his No. 1 hits on the country charts between 1975’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and 1989’s “Nothing I Can Do About It Now.” A few big hits (No. 2s, mostly) from the era are bypassed for smaller hits such as 1977’s No. 4 country hit “Uncloudy Day” and 1980’s No. 6 country version of Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” but the set covers most of the time period. Other obvious highlights here—such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”—are among Nelson’s most career-defining. Naturally, a larger collection would encompass more of Nelson’s career and uncover lesser-known gems. But for what 16 Biggest Hits sets out to do, it does so enjoyably, playing like one smooth album that just so happens to include an unusual amount of famous songs.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Distilling a career as long and legendary as Willie Nelson’s into just 16 songs demands limits. This set features his No. 1 hits on the country charts between 1975’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and 1989’s “Nothing I Can Do About It Now.” A few big hits (No. 2s, mostly) from the era are bypassed for smaller hits such as 1977’s No. 4 country hit “Uncloudy Day” and 1980’s No. 6 country version of Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider,” but the set covers most of the time period. Other obvious highlights here—such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” and “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”—are among Nelson’s most career-defining. Naturally, a larger collection would encompass more of Nelson’s career and uncover lesser-known gems. But for what 16 Biggest Hits sets out to do, it does so enjoyably, playing like one smooth album that just so happens to include an unusual amount of famous songs.

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About Willie Nelson

Even before he became the Red Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson was already a Nashville songwriting legend, providing Patsy Cline with her 1961 signature tune, “Crazy.” But as a fledgling performer in his own right, the clean-cut honky-tonker’s humble approach and conversational croon was increasingly at odds with mainstream country music’s tilt toward variety-show glitz. Upon joining the post-hippie roots-music radicals taking over the Austin scene (and swearing off barbers forevermore), the Texas-born Nelson became an icon of the ’70s outlaw-country movement, favoring a stripped-down style that could both evoke desert-highway vistas (“On the Road Again”) and initiate the most intimate of conversations (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”). But Nelson’s brand of down-home simplicity shouldn’t be confused with dogmatic purism (he’s also no stranger to adult-contemporary crossovers, like his duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All the Girls I've Loved Before”). Rather, he’s always searching for the most direct route to the soul of a song, whether he’s elevating the country standard “Always on My Mind” to the realm of modern hymn, or bringing a wistful, lived-in wisdom to Great American Songbook perennials like “Georgia on My Mind.” In the 21st century, Nelson’s outlaw ethos has continued to manifest itself in all sorts of surprising ways: He’s become America’s most visible pro-marijuana activist and Snoop Dogg’s unlikeliest duet partner.

HOMETOWN
Abbott, TX
GENRE
Country
BORN
April 29, 1933

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