28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2008
If someone had asked me who would be the best person to write a biography of Willie Nelson, I would have said Joe Nick Patoski without any hesitation. He's been "on the story" for years, as a journalist and as a fan. (I have too, in fact, but Nick got there before I did!)
What fascinated me about this book was how well he negotiated the huge cast of characters -- and I mean "characters," a term used in the Texas underworld for small-time criminals, as well as dramatis personae. Willie has never been able to say no to anyone, resulting in a "family" the size of a small town, and it looks like Patoski has interviewed all of them.
And although I've been covering Willie since his 1973 Atlantic sessions, and have interviewed him numerous times, I was astonished at how much new stuff I learned from reading An Epic Life. It's great to have all this information in one place, and for serious fans, or, indeed, anyone interested in Texas music, the history of country music, or what it's like to be a superstar today, this will very likely be the definitive book on the life and work of Willie Nelson for some years to come.
At which point, I don't doubt Patoski will get back on the case and update this one.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2008
"Willie Nelson: An Epic Life", written by acclaimed Texan Joe Nick Patoski, is a meticulously researched and very readable documentation of the life and career of the legendary Willie Nelson. Combining insightful observations about Willie along with exclusive interviews of Nelson and the people that have been closest to him in his personal and professional life, this official biography has a very engaging and fluid style that makes it an entertaining and enlightening read for those either new to the story of Willie Nelson or for the long-time fan.
From the Blackland cotton patches of Willie's boyhood home in Abbott, Texas, through his musical "coming-of-age" in the rough and tumble, blood and guts honky-tonks of Fort Worth, his trials, tribulations and ultimate successes in the music business of Nashville, Nelson's return to his roots in Texas and to Austin, then on to the heights of The White House and his well-deserved legendary status worldwide, Patoski wonderfully leads the reader on the road of Willie Nelson's life.
This well-written, flowing " page-turner " is a joy to read.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2008
No matter how many stories you have heard about Willie Nelson, or what you know about him -- I promise that you will learn new things about him when you read Joe Nick Patoski's book, 'Willie Nelson: An Epic Life."
I have been reading Joe Nick's articles about Willie Nelson for years. It's always like I'm sitting down listening him to tell a story. You can kind of hear his southern accent in your head while you're reading :)) Joe Nick doesn't ask the same questions of Willie, and he always gets new answers. This book is so well researched, well written, and entertaining. Joe Nick tells the stories behind the stories. He is a Willie Nelson fan, and you can feel when you read it that this book was a labor of love.
The book is about Willie Nelson, but it is also tells the history of music in Texas, and the characters and musicians. There are several books written about Willie Nelson, and I've read them all. This one is the best!
Thank you, Joe Nick, for writing this book!
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Willie Nelson's craggy profile on this book's cover looks like it was carved out of granite. He appears like a man who has lived a rough life, one who has not taken particularly good care of himself. An Epic Life explores the reasons why Willie's face looks like that, and does a pretty good job explaining things.
Author Joe Nick Patoski gives you all the down-and-dirty details of the fighting, drinking, womanizing, alleged tax cheating and drugs, as well as all the stories behind Willie's timeless songs. Patoski conducted hundreds of interviews with Nelson and his family and friends over 35 years of research, and it shows. He's crafted a true insider's view of an icon that's also a comprehensive biography, an interesting read filled with many personal glimpses, with the bonus of some fascinating profiles of other folks both known and unknown.
A section of glossy pages in the middle has 26 black and white photos. They range in time from 1929 to 2007, from a vintage shot of Nelson's parents to a portrait of Willie and his sister Bobbie Lee from last year.
Here's the chapter list:
1. Somewhere in America, 2007
2. Abbott, 1938
3. East of Western Grove on Pindall Ridge, 1925
4. Abbott, 1933
5. Waco, 1952
6. San Antonio, 1954
7. Fort Worth, 1955
8. Vancouver, Washington, 1956
9. Fort Worth Again, 1958
10. Houston, 1959
11. Nashville, 1960
12. Los Angeles, 1961
13. Ridgetop, Tennessee, 1964
14. Tennessee to Texas, 1965
15. Coast-to-Coast, Border-to-Border, 1967
16. Lost Valley, 1971
17. Austin, 1972
18. Orange to El Paso, Dalhart to Brownsville, 1973
19. Garland to Hollywood, 1975
20. The Hill, 1979
21. The World, 1986
22. The Valley, 1991
23. The New World, 1993
24. Paradise, 2004
25. Home, 2006
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2008
This masterful, extremely well-written, critically-acclaimed book is one of the most entertaining I have read in years. I loved it. You will love it too. Willie Nelson's seventy-five years are packed full of amazing honky-tonk characters, historic music, and priceless philosophy. The characters that he attracts like a magnet had me laughing out loud. It also manages to lay out the cultural history of Texas country music and show business over the span of Willie's life in well-researched, fascinating detail.
Joe Nick Patoski did over 100 interviews with Willie, his family, his band, and his long-term friends. They tell their story in their own words mixed in with Patoski's novel-like story telling. The love and extreme loyalty of the major characters is a constant theme. Willie does everything he can to help the people that helped him all these years. It is a fascinating biography that young and old will love. It would make a perfect gift for anyone. No one has lived a more interesting rags to riches to rags to riches life than Willie. As Patoski makes clear, its hard to find anyone that doesn't love Willie Nelson. I did a search of Joe Nick Patoski and was delighted to find all the rave reviews.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I had the good fortune to not only live in Austin during the 70's "Willie" years but to have also been to his 3 day 1976 Gonzales picnic and to his 1980's picnic at his Pedernales place. I've also seen him play golf which is a site to behold. I'd always heard about his womanizing, drug use, and epic struggle to be a star but didn't know if all of it or even part of it, was true. This book puts all of those myths and rumors to rest. Yes indeed his first wife did beat him with a broom stick while he was passed out drunk! This book shows all of Shotgun Willie sitting around in his underwear. He's a mean drunk and a loyal friend. He's a drug abuser and a philanthropist. He's a "not there" father but a raiser of funds for churches, farmers, and friends with unpaid tax bills.
At times this book can be tedious with detail particularly about Willie's early music life. And, as another reader said,overloaded with compound sentences. But strap yourself in, get your beverage of choice, and enjoy reading about this true Red Headed Stranger.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2011
I've spent the last couple of years reading biographies and autobiographies of entertainers I admire... Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Waylon Jennings, Eric Clapton, Jefferson Airplane, Johnny Cash, Iggy Pop. I had almost given up on the genre when my wife gave me Joe Nick Patoski's excellent bio of Willie Nelson for my birthday.
The problem with most of these folks is that you can find their music awe-inspiring and marvel at the gift they've been given--and then realize that you wouldn't want to meet them in real life. Self-obsessed almost to a fault, most of these great artists can't seem to find the time to do anything but drink, take drugs, and chase after women who aren't their wives. Somewhere in there, a handler or good friend finds a way to lock them into a studio and force them to make an album. Concerts are hit-or-miss affairs, the fans often treated as an afterthought (if not with downright contempt). I think it's safe to say that I found reading about most of my musical heroes to be a total downer.
Enter Willie Nelson. Although he's far from perfect--a half-assed father at best, an inveterate womanizer like most of his fellow musicians, and a guy who can't get through two hours without smoking a joint--there's something gracious and generous that makes Nelson different from the rest. Whether it's his insistence on sticking around after every concert to sign anything and everything his fans thrust at him (which is why his signature is worth so little on eBay), or his early championing of black stars like Charley Pride and Ray Charles while risking his own bacon at honky-tonks in the deep South, or his fascination with performing with artists of all cultural and political stripes (witness his friendship with right-wing country star Toby Keith), or his involvement with causes like Farm Aid--even such minor details as rebuilding the Methodist church in his tiny hometown of Abbott, Texas--Willie Nelson is a man who seeks to give as good as he's gotten, and is one of the very few stars we have today who still stays in close touch with his fans.
Joe Nick Patoski gives us an exhausting look at this American icon, following his career from his early days as a hustling songwriter striving to feed his family, to his leaving Nashville to found the "outlaw country" movement in Austin with Waylon Jennings, to his current status as certifiable legend. Although, as I've said, this is an exhaustive work--it's worth reading every word of it.
(Willie's worth it, too.)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A meticulously researched and comprehensive biography of Willie Nelson. Great detail on his recording career and the country western music scene. My only complaint: the writing style is, at times, cumbersome...too many compound sentences that impede the flow of the story telling. Otherwise, this book is everything you ever wanted to know about Willie Nelson.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2012
Country music scholars and hard-core Willie fans will love this book! It is packed with details about Willie's history and his associates. The author strikes a good balance between praise and blame when talking about Wille's personality. He doesn't lean too hard on the "Saint Willie" image that so many other writers have harped on endlessly. His appraisal of Willie the man is fair and realistic. The casual reader might feel as if there is a little too much detail about every two-bit dance hall promoter and backup musician that has ever been associated with Willie, though. Those whose interest lies mainly with the music will enjoy the details of Willie's sessions and the different record labels he has recorded for through the years. Very thorough and very readable!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2008
This is one of the finest written books I have read in a long time. The kind of book you don't want to put down.