Willie Nelson, CarolAnn and me

“If America could sing with one voice it would be Willie’s.”
– Emmylou Harris

When I met Willie in person I froze. I literally couldn’t open my mouth to speak.

It was in the late 1980s in the Dan Russell Rodeo Arena in Folsom, California. When Willie finished his last song he did something that blew our minds: He put down his guitar, stepped down from the stage and walked through the dirt right into the crowd of his worshipers wearing that famous crinkly-eyes, half-crooked smile.

He stayed out there, signed autographs and chatted with folks until we all finally dragged ourselves back to our cars for the happy drive home.

I don’t remember if I shook his hand but I think not. I just stood stupidly next to my hero while my wife asked him to autograph our tickets, which he did. Then she asked Willie if I could phone him the next morning for a short live interview on my radio show. He smiled and nicely explained that he’d like to but his bus would be hitting the road as soon as he got back in it.

(This was in the early days of cell phones, once you got out of town you could forget about talking to anyone. He’d be long gone by tomorrow.)

I never said a word. I literally couldn’t find my voice and I don’t regret it. I had stood beside him for a few minutes while he chatted with my wife. I’m pretty sure that’s about as much live interaction with Willie Nelson that I could handle.

I was happy.

I’ve seen Willie and his family four times, I think.

He’ll turn 85 next week and I need to see him again before the time slips away.

 

Of music and noise

I don’t listen to music very often. When I do it has my full attention.

Everywhere we go these days we hear music in the background: in malls, restaurants, grocery stores, theater lobbies; even outdoor city sidewalks have music poured onto them like some sort of sweet, gooey corporate confection.

When I ride in a friend’s car and he has the radio turned on very low I want to reach over and shut it off. Or, turn it up and stop talking.

Elevators and telephone on-hold music are the worst, of course. That’s satanic torture, mind-numbing and inescapable.

What idiocy have we subscribed to? Why must we be soothed, excited or pummeled by music everywhere we go?

Most of the time I just want the world to be quiet. Silence is bliss. It’s the only way I can hear myself think.

When I want to hear music I decide which music, when, where and how.

And then I will actually listen to it, giving it my full attention and allowing it to fill me.

I love music. It deserves more respect than ambient noise.