When asked about retirement, seventy-three-year old Willie Nelson says, “All I do is play music and golf – which one do you want me to give up?”
With over 2500 published songs, 8 Grammy awards, a Presidential Merit Award, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award for unprecedented and genre-defying contributions to popular music over a fifty-year career under his belt, braids to his waist, wise eyes, and a deceptively youthful bounce in his step, the living legend, singer, songwriter, actor, activist, and author took the stage at Whitney Hall on July 12 and proved he still has what it takes to please a packed house. A few things had changed since the first time I saw him perform. The first time, I paid to park and the show was free. This time tickets ranged from $35.50 to $65.50. The first time I knew jeans and tee shirts were appropriate; this time I didn’t know whether to dress for the Kentucky Center, or Willie. I chose Willie.
The most impressive difference this time was Willie’s son, Lucas. Either of them would have been worth the price of the ticket alone. What they delivered together was priceless. Lucas not only has the music in him, he is the music. In contrast to his father’s gentle pull at the heartstrings through his trademark acoustic sound, the son shows no mercy as he attacks the blues on his electric guitar with the passion of a young Stevie Ray or B.B.
The connection between the two men found its way to my nosebleed seat. I felt privileged to witness what looked like a passing of the torch; Willie shared all he had with his son, and Lucas eagerly and skillfully soaked it up and poured it back to the audience.
The two things that had not changed over the years were Willie’s voice and sincerity. If he ever does decide to retire, I hope he gives up golf.