Customer Reviews: Willie: An Autobiography
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on July 26, 2002
I bought "Willie" years ago (and I like the old cover with the flag..don't know why they changed that) It's a big, thick book that's just crammed with proof that real life - if it's Willie's - is a whole lot better than any fiction novel. I loaned my copy out one too many times and it came up missing, so was glad to see it on here so I could get another one...only I had my old one so dog-earred, highlighted, etc...I hate having to go buy all those markers again, to do over;) When you get your copy, go to the index and ck it out....grab that highlighter pen before you even get started, here. I'm a truck driver, so I read this and that and here and there, before having a chance to read cover to cover. Then it turned into a reference book of Willie's Wisdom and all sorts of good stuff to good to forget. I kept it handy just to re-read some parts over and over. It's more than one book, somehow or other...yes, it's his autobiography - an All-American tale of rags to riches and all that; but, it's a whole lot more than that, too. If you like Willie, buy it. If you don't, I don't know why you're in here looking at it...but, if you like a dynamite story, or to read real-life accounts at all - you won't put this down, easily. What leaves me amazed is how anyone could cram that much living into the time period that book covers...he's lived nearly 20 more years since I bought his new one, "Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes", to see what he's been up to since the "Willie" book. It's a hoot..sort of a grass-roots type of wisdom, interjected with lots of "mind-f.r.ts" and takes on his varied accumulation of friends and family, to date. Better buy it too, while you're at it...for dessert.
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on September 21, 2005
This was very informative on the life of the man. Chapters from members of his band, family and ex-wives was fantastic. A look deep inside the man and his music, and worth the purchase by any true fan of country music and the "outlaw movement". Really shows his deep spirtual feelings about life. Worth every penny of the cost, and I'm glad I purchased it.
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on January 30, 2006
This was even better than I thought it would be, and Willie's my favorite singer/songwriter. Not only did I discover how spiritual Willie is, but he treats people with sincere compassion,loves his audience even more than I think most people realize. Also, he doesn't make excuses for himself, and it takes someone with heart like Willie to admit his mistakes, and he keeps on bringing people back for more great music and he loves to make his audience happy. Right on, Willie
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VINE VOICEon April 15, 2008
This autobiography is told in Willie Nelson's unmistakable voice, but Bud Shrake must have helped shape and edit it. Maybe Bud just let a tape roll while Willie spoke, and then shaped it into a coherent narrative. Whatever the process, the result is a very good book about songwriter, singer, and unsuccessful hog farmer Willie Nelson. Here is a sample:

"A long time ago when I walked onto a stage to do a show, I would search the room with my eyes. I was looking for somebody who was looking at me, who appeared interested in learning what I was doing in front of the microphone with a guitar in my hands. Once I found that friendly face, I would sing to that person all night long. I would zero in and make heavy contact with their spirit. And it would grow. The flash of energy between me and the one friendly face would reflect into others, and it would keep growing.

"But it all had to start with one friendly face."

Nowadays, he does big shows where all that is impossible. Crowds of 100,000 at night where all he can see is "nothing but a wide deep-purple canyon blinking with the fire of thousands of cigarettes....

"I can't say I never dreamed such a thing would happen to me, I knew it would...."

Willie is a dreamer, a visionary, a trail blazer, and in country music he is, to quote Allan Jackson, "a new-note finder, not a walk-behinder."

The story of his life is here, from his humble beginnings in Abbott, Texas, to his early struggles to make it as a song writer and performer in Nashville, to his huge success with the so-called Outlaws, and then more struggles with taxes and the law, through the present, where he is revered as an elder statesman of country music. The story is told in Willie's own voice, but the "chorus" like the chorus in a Greek tragedy or epic, chimes in. His loves, and friends and relations, are also heard from.

Willie Nelson is a COUNTRY singer, but what interests me is that he really pushes the envelope, and mixes it with jazz. According to his book, his true allegiance is to country music--all the improv in jazz sometimes strikes him as rehearsal noise--but he has added just a little bit of jazz to some of his best songs, and he had a great cross-over success with Stardust. He really likes "Moonlight in Vermont," and "Stardust." He didn't really feel qualified to do it musically, but while staying in Malibu his neighbor, Booker T. Jones came up with some good arrangements for him, and they ended up doing an album of jazz standards in 1978 that went triple platinum.

Willie wrote "Crazy," and it was recorded by Patsy Cline. He had to fight the producers, because it had more than the standard 3 chords per song. It didn't have as many chords as "Stardust" but it had more than three, like "Crazy Arms." Willie respects a great song like that where the writer can say it all and only has to use three chords to do it, but he doesn't want to be restricted.

Another interesting thing about Willie Nelson is that he has perfect pitch, and even hears things like a fly buzzing in "F." There is some great stuff in this book where he discusses his song writing process. The song, "On the Road Again" was written for the movie Honeysuckle Rose. The producers said they needed a song about musicians traveling around and singing, so he just whipped out a napkin or an air sickness bag and said "You mean like this?" and wrote the famous lyrics. He didn't even worry about the melody until he was about to record it because he feels like there are always melodies floating through the air like radio waves, and one only has to tune in. He used an example of Muhammad Ali's trainer who came up with "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" and claimed it came from the same sort of radio waves Willie describes.

Mr. Nelson breaks it all down, and even discusses his unusual approach to rhythm and phrasing. As he gets older, his timing gets more and more eccentric--last time I saw him on Letterman he sounded like he was singing to a whole different band then the one who shared his stage. His father was also a musician, but one who felt you should always be strictly in time. Perhaps it is his way of rebelling, but he discusses it in this book, and though I might beg to differ with him--especially of late--he claims he doesn't "break meter" and though he might get a little behind or ahead, it all comes out right in the end. He marches to the beat of his own drum.

Of his own songs, his favorite three so far are "On the Road Again," Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," and "Healing Hands of Time."

Willie Nelson tells many interesting stories and expounds on his ideas and philosophies--all the while being endlessly fascinating. And the pictures--let me tell you, everything from his second grade yearbook where he is a spitting image of Alfalfa to his later look--a weirded beard-o with his gray hair in braids. There is even a picture of the cover and some pages of the song book he wrote at the age of 11--in crayon. This book is chock full of good stuff.

One nugget worth digging out is where film producer Sydney Pollack describes casting him in "The Electric Horseman" with Robert Redford. There wasn't a part for him, but they gave him the part of the manager, and just let him say whatever he felt was right for his character. I'll leave it to you to find it for yourself, but it does involve chrome and tequila.


Red Headed Stranger: A breakthrough album and the title kind of sums him up.

Stardust: A surprise cross-over hit, with songs by Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, and other writers of the Great American Songbook.

Pancho & Lefty: Title track by Townes Van Zandt was tailor made for Willie and Merle Haggard.

54 Songs: The Songwriter Sessions: This will give you an idea of what Willie was capable of in a "song pull" where a bunch of songwriters get together and play their best stuff until dawn--kind of a shoot at the OK Corral with guitars instead of guns.

Honeysuckle Rose: Music From The Original Soundtrack: Might as well get this rather than a greatest hits, because it has hits galore. "On the Road Again" is here, and was written for the film.

Patsy Cline - The Definitive Collection: Dig that "Crazy" sound, Patsy.

The Electric Horseman: Willie's first movie role, with Robert Redford, and he has the best line, which just came out of his head.

Pure Country/Honeysuckle Rose: 2 movies packaged together. Pure Country features George Strait. Honeysuckle Rose is Willie's film, and for this one he wrote "On the Road Again"

Songwriter: Take Willie Nelson and something he is really great at: writing songs. Does that = a great movie? How could it not?

Last of the Breed: Willie, Merle Haggard, and Ray Price. According to the book, Ray never spoke to him after Willie was forced to shoot one of Ray's fighting roosters. Lucky for us, they finally patched things up and went "On the Road Again." You gotta hear "Lost Highway" done by a trio of troubadours who have sure been down that road before.
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on December 20, 2015
I loved it to a point. At one point he started telling the problems with business side of his life. Sorry, I zoned out. I stopped. I should have continued but I did not. I love Willie Nelson, saw him in Hawaii at the football game. I only went to see Willie not the football game. He was impressive. My husband loves him and his songs as much as I do. He went to see Willie not the football game also.
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on September 29, 2013
Like most country singers Willie's talent was obvious early on. He was given a guitar for Christmas and taught himself how to play. But he was lucky to have perfect pitch. As his fame rose, so did his lifestyle., He had to convince the record producers to make his favorite album, stardust. They said no one would buy it but it went on to become his best selling album. He picked the songs that he grew up on for it , the ones he listened to as a child for the album. It was the Stardust album that turned me on to Willie as his biggest fan. As he has aged, he became more conscious of is health and turned to the wisdom of Tao, and some Buddhist beliefs.
He still loves singing and I still love listening.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 22, 2003
This autobiography of Willie is as well done as it could possibly be. Willie is as big as anyone in the music world and in fact created a lot of that world himself.To the multitude of fans who love his music;this book will tell you much more about Willie, the man.Even if you think you know all there is to know, it will hold more surprises than you could imagine.I must warn you that the book came out in 1988,and hence does not deal with the crippling tax problems he was facing and how he dealt with and overcame them.However; it does give an excellent insight into his whole life,both personally and on the road.A must read for any Wllie Nelson fan.
A very interesting surprise.."For all you fellow pilgrims,here is my list of statements to watch out for on your journey:
The many photographs are also excellent.
(see my next review Willie Nelson-Behind the music by Clint Richmond)
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on August 8, 2014
Great read. This book gave me an insight into the personal life of one of my favorite singers. An icon in the country music world, Willie's wild and wooly youth comes alive. He is a truly great singer with a unique style
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on November 28, 2012
I thought this book was about as down to earth in describing the life of Willie Nelson from childhood on up.I also liked the fact that others put their 2 cents in .Willies friends & family have opinions also.I found the parts about his sister Bobby & his Grandparents & Mother interesting reading.I guess he is one laid back person.Also found out that he is very spiritual. I really liked the book even though it was written a few decades back.
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on January 15, 2014
Refreshing, honest story telling, though painful at times. I didn't know Willie was so loaded with experience, so much adventure and raw living. But in the end the story of on the road sort of drifts off into philosophy and then like a dying fire, it just smokes for a while at his own personal golf course in Austin. Though It took me a few passes to finally finish, his thinking on the purpose of life and matters of everyday decisions is intriguing and worth the read.
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