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NOTE: Due to winter weather, the Portrait Gallery will close at 5:30 p.m. today and delay opening until noon tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 29. 

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
Usage Conditions Apply
Michael O'Brien, born 27 Jun 1950
Willie Nelson, born 30 Apr 1933
1989 (printed 2009)
Chromogenic print
Image: 38.1 x 38.1cm (15 x 15")
Sheet: 55.9 x 43.1cm (22 x 16 15/16")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9cm (28 x 22")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Bill and Sally Wittliff
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© Michael O'Brien
Object number
Exhibition Label
Willie Nelson has ranged more widely than any country singer of his generation. While he got his start writing songs for others—including "Crazy" (1961), first popularized by Patsy Cline—he broke from the string-dominated Nashville sound with the release of his breakthrough album Red Headed Stranger in 1975. Jazz, blues, pop, swing, and folk all became a part of the "outlaw" country music that he and others popularized during this period. Wearing long hair, a red bandana, and denim and singing in a distinctive weathered voice, Nelson is a gentle and unassuming presence on stage. Yet his tenderness is rooted in a flinty toughness built on irreverence toward authority. This independent streak reveals itself both in his songs and in his work as the founder of the Farm Aid concert series, as a champion of biodiesel fuel, and as a tireless advocate for the legalization of marijuana.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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