Thursday, April 10, 2008

Publishers Weekly likes Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life
Joe Nick Patoski. Little Brown, $27.99 (576p) ISBN 9780316017787
This impressive, entertaining chronicle of Willie Nelson’s life is replete with exactly what you’d expect—honky-tonk, long nights on the open road, whiskey, womanizing and weed—but Texas writer Patoski (Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire, Texas Mountains) looks beyond country music trappings to find the funny, talented, determined man who became an unlikely icon. Raised in Abbott, Texas, by impoverished grandparents, Nelson was writing songs about “love, betrayal and cheating” by the age of seven, but was told throughout his life that he couldn’t sing, play or keep a beat. As an adult, Nelson worked odd jobs—encyclopedia salesman among them—while selling songs in Nashville; he had an early hit in 1961 with Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and soon began recording for RCA. Fourteen albums later, “with not much to show,” Nelson fled to Austin, Texas, a move many viewed as career suicide; instead, it was a launching pad to stardom, propelled by the up-and-coming hippie movement and the strength of his groundbreaking album Red Headed Stranger. Patoski conducted over a hundred interviews for this thorough, well-noted “epic,” peopling it with “pickers, gypsies, pirates, vagabonds, wanderers and carneys,” including fellow performers like Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman and Leona Williams. Writing with an affectionate country twang, Patoski gives his subject the consideration he deserves in a fine, fluid piece of storytelling that any Nelson fan will appreciate. 8 pages b&w photos. (Apr.)

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