Reflecting on Willie Nelson and other living legends
The vocals were not very strong. The band could have been tighter. The sound wasn’t that great. I went to the best bad concert in my life last night at Marymoor Park. It was to see Willie Nelson. As a musical experience, it was average. As an homage to greatness, I wouldn’t miss it.
I made a decision a long time ago that when I have a chance to see a living legend, I go. This was after not bothering to go see Stevie Ray Vaughn in Albuquerque, and shrugging off a Jeff Buckley show in San Francisco because the venue was too far away. In both cases, I thought, “I’ll see them the next time.” There was no next time.
After that, I went to see Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, BB King, Radiohead, Elton John and the Beastie Boys.
But the more I thought about it, I began to expand my horizons. I found that I became increasingly attracted to people that were great at what they do. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a world class musician or a local carpenter. If they have put in the time in and are doing their thing at a high level, I want to be around that person.
Genius is rare. People who choose to spend their life in a singular quest for greatness are worth it. This has become my luxury item; experiencing people who are great at things.
That’s why I save up and go a Michelin Star restaurant when I’m in a city that’s rated. That’s why I go to a Seahawks game to marvel at Earl Thomas. And that’s why I braved the horrible traffic and parking on a Wednesday night to listen to an 84-year-old Willie Nelson sing and play guitar in front of a giant Texas flag.
He doesn’t really sing the songs anymore. Not all the way through. He kind of half speaks, half sings these days. But that really isn’t the point. How many times in your life do you get the chance to witness a true genius do his thing?
I don’t use that word lightly. If you’re not a Willie Nelson fan, his body of work is astonishing. Willie has penned one of the most impressive catalogs of songs in any genre from any era. Go look it up. He practically gave away the song “Crazy” to Patsy Cline in 1961.
That’s the thing when you see him live, it’s one iconic song after another. It’s really jaw dropping.
In 1956, a young Willie Nelson moved to Vancouver, Wash. and wrote the song “Family Bible.” He was a radio DJ at the time and aspired to get into the music business. Quick, name me three other people who have career in popular music that have lasted over 60 years. Maybe Tony Bennett? That’s all I got. That’s the list.
I have to say that this one decision has been the most gratifying one of my entire life. Being impressed by people who are great at what they do is its own reward. The best part is it can happen at any time in any place. I had the best burrito of my life from a street vendor in Mexico City. This man was a magician with his two spatulas, a tortilla, and a grill. I just had my kitchen remodeled. My carpenter Dave would seeming just summon amazing design out of thin air.
Be amazed at things. It’s so much better than being cynical. Sometimes you need to sit through the traffic, wait in line, and sit in the park and watch a show.
You’d be crazy not to.