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Willie Nelson: An Epic Life Paperback – April 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This impressive, entertaining chronicle of Willie Nelson's life is replete with exactly what you'd expect-honky-tonk, long nights on the open road, whiskey, womanizing and weed-but Texas writer Patoski (Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, Texas Mountains) looks beyond country music trappings to find the funny, talented, determined man who became an unlikely icon. Raised in Abbott, Texas, by impoverished grandparents, Nelson was writing songs about "love, betrayal and cheating" by the age of seven, but was told throughout his life that he couldn't sing, play or keep a beat. As an adult, Nelson worked odd jobs-encyclopedia salesman among them-while selling songs in Nashville; he had an early hit in 1961 with Patsy Cline's "Crazy," and soon began recording for RCA. Fourteen albums later, "with not much to show," Nelson fled to Austin, Texas, a move many viewed as career suicide; instead, it was a launching pad to stardom, propelled by the up-and-coming hippie movement and the strength of his groundbreaking album Red Headed Stranger. Patoski conducted over a hundred interviews for this thorough, well-noted "epic," peopling it with "pickers, gypsies, pirates, vagabonds, wanderers and carneys," including fellow performers like Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and Leona Williams. Writing with an affectionate country twang, Patoski gives his subject the consideration he deserves in a fine, fluid piece of storytelling that any Nelson fan will appreciate. 8 pages b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Country singer-songwriter Nelson’s performing life turned 50, so to speak, at least a decade back and has been so closely coterminous with his biological being that Patoski’s biography basically just chronicles gig after gig and session after session. Spaces between professional musicmaking are filled mostly by driving between them, deal-making, collecting performance fees, and jamming with confreres. The ordinaries of most people’s adult lives—marriage and family, householding—receive the least attention, apparently because they always got the short end of Nelson’s stick. He has been happiest on the road, as he admits, and those who went with him, blood-related or not, came to be his family. As Patoski relates it, Nelson’s way is harder on everyone else than it is on him. They succumb to the booze, drugs, bad food, sleep deprivation, and violence of the road. Nelson breezes along, the calm center of a ceaseless storm. Those who cherish his voice will tell you that’s how he sounds, too; since such are legion, this book will immediately grab a sizable readership. Those who know only his name may be bored by Patoski’s naming of every person who ever impinged on Willie, every country music club in every Texas town Willie has played, every track Willie has laid down—but evoking precious few of them. --Ray Olson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
For an unvarnished version of a life independently lived, then go ahead and try
to tackle this big book. It is probably the true story of his young life, his career
history and his ever-present drug problem. Some Texans can relate to the poverty
experienced in the small off the highway town of Abbot, others relate to his tentative
entry into the country western level of his music, and then others know the pain and
uncertainty of addiction. But can all Texans identify with the force of the
compassion that drives the endless concerts that bring food, shelter and hope to
the homeless of the State? It seems to do just that, because he is one of the most
prolific fund raisers in the area. This book falls short in praise of this great man, a man
of all seasons, a rare one who truly loves his home state.