11 Songs, 35 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

In the ’80s, Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson appeared side by side in a televised spot for NASA’s Space Foundation, the former wearing a tuxedo and the latter in braids and denim. “Willie, it’s obvious that we don’t share the same tailor,” Sinatra said, before pointing to Nelson’s headband. “I mean, what do you call that thing there?”


“I call it ‘my way,’ Francis,” Nelson replied with a grin.


The subtext was that if these two could agree on the value of space-age technology—"It’s led to a lot of things that have helped all of us, city dudes and country cousins alike," Nelson said—then more commonalities surely must exist. On My Way, Nelson extends that thought with a set of soulful, affectionately rendered covers pulled mostly from Sinatra’s defining ’50s–’60s run. The approach is both jazzy and twangy, playful and reflective, with Norah Jones joining in for a lively duet on “What Is This Thing Called Love.” And though Nelson’s voice is still strong at 85, his renditions of the elegiac “It Was a Very Good Year” and the title cut in particular feel almost too poignant. For Nelson, it was Sinatra’s talent for phrasing that he related to most. “He didn’t worry about [being] behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever—he could sing it either way,” Nelson told AARP The Magazine in early 2018. “And that’s the feel you have to have.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

In the ’80s, Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson appeared side by side in a televised spot for NASA’s Space Foundation, the former wearing a tuxedo and the latter in braids and denim. “Willie, it’s obvious that we don’t share the same tailor,” Sinatra said, before pointing to Nelson’s headband. “I mean, what do you call that thing there?”


“I call it ‘my way,’ Francis,” Nelson replied with a grin.


The subtext was that if these two could agree on the value of space-age technology—"It’s led to a lot of things that have helped all of us, city dudes and country cousins alike," Nelson said—then more commonalities surely must exist. On My Way, Nelson extends that thought with a set of soulful, affectionately rendered covers pulled mostly from Sinatra’s defining ’50s–’60s run. The approach is both jazzy and twangy, playful and reflective, with Norah Jones joining in for a lively duet on “What Is This Thing Called Love.” And though Nelson’s voice is still strong at 85, his renditions of the elegiac “It Was a Very Good Year” and the title cut in particular feel almost too poignant. For Nelson, it was Sinatra’s talent for phrasing that he related to most. “He didn’t worry about [being] behind the beat or in front of the beat, or whatever—he could sing it either way,” Nelson told AARP The Magazine in early 2018. “And that’s the feel you have to have.”

TITLE TIME

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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