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Willie Nelson Looking Back Through The Years

Willie Nelson Looking Back Through The Years

Willie Nelson didn’t exactly start at the bottom and work his way up as an actor.

The country icon made his film debut alongside two legends in a film that was directed by an Academy Award-winning director when he appeared in The Electric Horseman in 1979.

The Electric Horseman starred Robert Redford as Norman “Sonny” Steele, a washed-up former championship rodeo rider who’s been reduced to earning a living by making public appearances to sell cereal. When he’s in Las Vegas to ride a $12 million champion thoroughbred racehorse named Rising Star at an appearance, he finds out the horse is injured and has been drugged, so he decides to steal the horse and travel across the country to release Rising Star in a canyon full of wild horses to live out its life.

Nelson was also deeply involved with the soundtrack to the film, recording “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, “Midnight Rider,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “So You Think You’re a Cowboy” and “Hands on the Wheel” for the movie’s score.

Released on Dec. 21, 1979, The Electric Horseman was well-received, earning $68.1 million at the box office against a budget of $12.5 million. Reviews were somewhat mixed but leaned toward the positive, and Pollack was so impressed with Nelson that he would go on to produce the country legend in his first starring vehicle, Honeysuckle Rose, in 1980. Nelson would go on to act in many other films, including SongwriterRed Headed StrangerAustin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and The Dukes of Hazzard, but the multi-talented entertainer is openly dismissive of his own acting ability.

“I’m the worst actor ever,” Nelson said in 2013. “Somebody asked Slim Pickens about my acting one time, and Slim said, ‘He plays Willie Nelson better than anybody.’ I have to agree with him on that one, I guess. I usually pretty much play myself, whoever I’m supposed to be. And that doesn’t require a lot of acting.”

See Willie Nelson Through the Years Willie Nelson Records

Willie Nelson, 1957

In 1957, Willie Nelson released his debut recording while working as a DJ in Vancouver, Washington. The recording was unsuccessful but Nelson kept trying

Willie Nelson, 1960

Liberty Records

Willie Nelson, 1962

Liberty Records was the lucky record company to snatch Willie Nelson up! He released …And Then I Wrote for them in 1962 after releasing the first single from it in ’61. 1961 was also the year Patsy Cline released “Crazy,” written by Nelson.

Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1964
After a little taste of success, Willie got another big break. In 1964, he signed with RCA Records (pictured).
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1965
The Grand Ole Opry welcomed Willie Nelson in 1965 and he released his first album on RCA Records. Nelson released Country Willie – His Own Songs, which was his third album. This one was produced by Chet Akins, who was largely responsible for Nelson signing with RCA.
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1966
Willie Nelson started climbing the charts in 1966 when he received his first Top 25 hit. The first was “One in a Row,” which peaked at No. 19. He had a string of hits following this one and was becoming a household name.

RCA Records

Willie Nelson, 1967
In 1967, Willie Nelson charted an extremely successful single in “The Party’s Over.” The party wasn’t over — it was just beginning. The track stayed in the Top 25 for an amazing 16 weeks!
RacingOne, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1969
1969 brought another big hit for Willie Nelson, but this time it was his recording of a cover. His version of “Bring Me Sunshine” was a Top 20 hit.
RCA Records

Willie Nelson, 1971

RCA Records

Willie Nelson, 1972
Willie Nelson decided to “retire” from music in ’72 and moved to Austin, Texas. It didn’t last long though and he got right back into the music scene.
Atlantic

Willie Nelson, 1973
Willie Nelson gained a lot of success in 1973 when he released his album Shotgun Willie on Atlantic. This was the turning point for Nelson who turned to outlaw country and was well-received by critics.
Atlantic

Willie Nelson, 1974
Phases and Stages was Nelson’s 1974 album. The record tells the story of divorce from both the man and the woman’s perspective. “Bloody Mary Morning” was his biggest hit on the record. This same year, Nelson was arrested for the first time for possession of marijuana in Dallas.

Columbia

Willie Nelson, 1975
In 1975 Willie Nelson switched to Columbia Records, where he released his Red Headed Stranger record. The contract he signed with Columbia left him very much in control of his music — including this well-received record. This same year he embarked on a tour with some proceeds benefiting Austin City Limits.
RCA Victor

Willie Nelson, 1976
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ similar outlaw country style was front and center in ’76 when they released Wanted! The Outlaws with Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. The album did so well it was the very first platinum record in country music. This same year he also earned a No. 1 hit with “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time.”
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1978
1978 meant two platinum albums for Willie Nelson. He collaborated with Jennings on Waylon and Willie which had the hit “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” as well as Stardust, another important Nelson record.
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1979
Willie Nelson made his first appearance in a movie in ’79 — but it wouldn’t be his last. He played Wendell in the Sydney Pollack directed The Electric Horsemen.
Michael Putland, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1980
In 1980, the braided singer had the opportunity to perform on the lawn of the White House. Jimmy Carter was in office at the time and Nelson performed a duet of “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” with first lady Rosalyn Carter.
Columbia

Willie Nelson, 1981
Somewhere Over the Rainbow was one of two albums Nelson released in 1981. The year wasn’t all rainbows for the legend, though, whose lung collapsed that same year while he was in Hawaii.
Columbia

Willie Nelson 1982
1982 was a really important year for Willie Nelson! He released Always on My Mind on Capitol Records. He released the single of the same name in ’82, which was a No. 1 hit on the country charts and a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100. It’s still one of his signature songs.
Ebet Roberts, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1983
The year ’83 meant another collaboration with Nelson’s good pal Waylon Jennings titled Take It to the Limit. Nelson proved to be extra supportive of his friend Jennings when he cut off his signature braids and gave them to him to celebrate his sobriety.
Ebet Roberts, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1985
Willie Nelson released Half Nelson in 1985. The record was a compilation of duets with other artists including Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and several other big names. That same year, he helped to create Farm Aid with John Mellencamp and Neil Young — a benefit concert for family farmers.

Columbia

Willie Nelson, 1986
1986 was a fun year full of success for Willie Nelson. His album Promiseland was released this year and topped the Billboard charts. His first gospel album, which was released many years prior, was certified gold this year and he starred as the lead in the film version of his album Red Headed Stranger.
Simon & Schuster

Willie Nelson, 1988
Willie: An Autobiography, Nelson’s first book was published in 1988. The autobiographical book was written by Nelson and Bud Shrake and received good critical reviews. He also divorced Connie Koepke this year.
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1990
In 1990, Willie Nelson had a difficult year regarding the IRS. They seized a lot of his assets claiming that the singer owed roughly $32 million.
Epic

Willie Nelson, 1991
Clean Shirt, a split album between Nelson and Jennings was released in ’91. It was the least successful of their collaboration albums and only one single even charted. He was still in battles with the IRS at this point and worried that his beloved guitar, “Trigger,” could potentially be taken from him.
Sony

Willie Nelson, 1992
The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories was released in 1992 as a way for Willie Nelson to pay off his substantial debt to the IRS.
NBC, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1993
By 1993, Nelson’s debt was finally paid off, but that wasn’t his only victory this year. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in ’93 — a huge honor!

Island

Willie Nelson, 1996
Spirit was Willie Nelson’s 1996 album released on Island, an album that was different than his previous records.
Pool, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 1998
In 1998, Willie Nelson released Teatro, a successful record that peaked at No. 17 on the Top Country Albums chart. He also received the Kennedy Center Honors this year.
Gabe Palacio, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2001
2001 was a devastating year for America, with the Sept. 11 attacks. Following them, Nelson was a part of America: A Tribute to Heroes, a telethon. He led “America the Beautiful.”
George De Sota, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2002
Willie Nelson proclaimed his love for meat in 2002 when he became the spokesperson for Texas Roadhouse. Some of their locations even included a Willie’s Corner, dedicated to the singer. “Mendocino County Line” was also one of his singles this year — a duet with Lee Ann Womack.
Random House

Willie Nelson, 2003
Nelson released his memoir in 2003 titled The Facts of Life: And Other Dirty Jokes. This year was also the year Toby Keith released his successful single with Nelson titled “Beer For My Horses.” He was also on Ringo Starr’s album this year.
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2004
Willie Nelson shared an ACM Award win with Toby Keith in 2004 when they took home best video for “Beer for My Horses.” He did have a little down time in 2004 when he had surgery for carpal tunnel, due to his guitar playing.

Sandy Huffaker, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2005
Willie Nelson had a jam-packed 2005. He headlined the Tsunami Relief Austin to Asia concert and him and his family hosted the inaugural Willie Nelson & NORML Benefit Golf Tournament. Nelson had worked with NORML for years to fight for marijuana legalization.
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2006
2006 brought more legal trouble for Nelson. He was arrested in Louisiana for marijuana possession yet again as well as the possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms. He also published his third book, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart.
Jeff Gentner, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2008
Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 — a huge honor for the track. He also published another book this year titled, A Tale Out of Luck, as well as reopened his truck stop, Willie’s Place. The truck stop is located in Texas.
Ian Gavan, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2010
2010 brought Country Music and it went into the Top 5 Billboard Country Albums. He was once again arrested for marijuana this year, which prompted him to create the TeaPot party, which strives to legalize pot and tax it. Austin, Texas also honored Nelson this year by naming a street after him.
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2011
In 2011 Willie Nelson was granted several honors. He was nominated for a Grammy this year for his album Country Music, and he was also inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame for his work with Farm AId.
Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2012
Nelson signed with Legacy Records in 2012. He also released a new autobiography titled Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road. Austin also unveiled their statue of Nelson this year.
Legacy Recordings

Willie Nelson, 2013
To All the Girls was released in 2013 on Legacy. It was a record full of duets with important female singers, including Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn and several others. This same year he got an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
Jason Merritt, Getty images

Willie Nelson, 2014
2014 brought Band of Brothers, which topped the charts. This year also marked the 20th anniversary of him practicing Korean martial arts, so he earned his fifth-degree black belt. He also sold his braids in 2014 for over $30,000.
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Willie Nelson, 2015
Nelson released another autobiography in 2015. In this photo, he’s at a signing for It’s a Long Story: My Life. He also underwent a stem cell procedure this year in hopes that it would improve his lungs. Most importantly this year, though, he was awarded the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress.

 – TasteOfCountry

 

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