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THE THROWBACK: Happy 80th Birthday, Willie Nelson
April 29, 2013
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Country music legend Willie Nelson turns 80 today. At least, he says his birthday is today; the state of Texas says it's tomorrow.

Either way, to celebrate, we're sharing 'Swingin' Over The Rainbow', a PBS Special that originally aired in 1981.

Over the years, Willie's become a folk hero and something of a reluctant outlaw. He started out as a traditional country singer/songwriter, but somewhere along the way, he not only turned to "outlaw country" (starting with his album 'Shotgun Willie') - he became an activist and a unique figure in American culture.

As the Houston Chronicle writes, "He's independent, he's contrarian, he's good-natured and mellow. He's real."

Or as the Huffington Post puts it, "He's accepted by left and right, black and white and is instantly recognizable to a majority of Americans."

And in the traditionally conservative world of country music, Willie is a regular defender of marriage equality, legalizing marijuana, and alternative fuels.

In March, he spoke to Texas Monthly about marriage equality and the Defense of Marriage Act, a U.S. federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

"It's ridiculous to me that this is something we're having a conversation about in this day and age. I thought it was something that was settled a long time ago... People are people where I come from."

After 50 years in the business, Willie still spends about 200 days a year on the road and has just released a new album, 'Let's Face the Music and Dance'. Plus, according to the Houston Chronicle, he has an estimated 1,000 tracks yet to be released.

It's a long way from his first real songwriting gig, which paid $50 a week.

Willie told the Associated Press he feels most at home on his tour bus: "I've lived in this house longer than I've lived in any of the others, all combined," he said. "I feel at home here. It moves around. I have a mobile home. That's about the size of it, and I enjoy it."

Over the years, Willie's also written books like 'The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart', as well as acting in films and television shows.

And his activist spirit sometimes sees him lending his voice to other people's projects: check out his cover of Coldplay's 'The Scientist', recorded as the soundtrack to a short film called 'Back to the Start' about industrial farming:

Earlier this season on The Strombo Show, Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas dropped by for an intimate performance and conversation about his latest album, 'Barchords'.

While in the broom closet, he talked about his admiration for Willie Nelson and performed a rendition of 'Stardust'. You can listen below and stream his full conversation with George.


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