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Red Headed Stranger

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Editors’ Notes

Though he is now an American institution, Willie Nelson spent the first twenty years of his career on the fringes of the country music establishment, writing hits for other artists (Patsy Cline, Faron Young) while bouncing among record labels. He arrived at Columbia Records in the mid-‘70s and somehow convinced them to release Red Headed Stranger, his sparsely arranged and convoluted concept album about a preacher on the run for the murder of his adulterous wife and her lover. The album’s success seemed unlikely at the time. Nashville had become increasingly slick with productions that were leaning heavier on orchestration as concessions to lite-FM and pop radio. Nelson presents the songs with just his guitar, harmonica, a little piano, scattered harmonies and occasional percussion. This uncompromising position solidified his reputation as one of the music’s true “outlaws” and its stunningly direct approach connected with audiences who fell under the hypnotic sway of Nelson’s relaxed delivery. It helps that the album also contains several of his most enduring tunes — ironically, ones the prolific songwriter didn’t write: “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Red Headed Stranger,” “Remember Me.”

Customer Reviews

Truly a classic.

I agree with the earlier reviewer who said this isn't just great country, it is a great work of art. This age of the "iTunes single download" is the final nail in the concept album's coffin so something like "The Red Headed Stranger" is not going to ever be made again (unless you count Sigur Ros).


This is a classic musical piece. Sit down next to a campfire and enjoy your experience with Willie. Storytelling at its best. This isn't country music, its just a great musical piece of art.

My First Musical Memory

Red Headed Stranger can go down in history for being the greatest "country" album ever. Willie is great at writing concept albums. It's easily the Dark Side Of The Moon of country music. It is also the first music I ever remember hearing. My parents had it on eight track. Thank you Willie.


Born: April 30, 1933 in Fort Worth, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As a songwriter and a performer, Willie Nelson played a vital role in post-rock & roll country music. Although he didn't become a star until the mid-'70s, Nelson spent the '60s writing songs that became hits for stars like Ray Price ("Night Life"), Patsy Cline ("Crazy"), Faron Young ("Hello Walls"), and Billy Walker ("Funny How Time Slips Away") as well as releasing a series of records on Liberty and RCA that earned him a small but devoted cult following. During the early '70s, Willie aligned himself...
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