Willie, King of Voice

For my 60th birthday gift I asked for tickets to see Willie Nelson. Barry was happy with my choice, as he too thought it would be great to see him perform live. Willie is 83 and we decided, should he sound frail due to his age we would still treasure the opportunity to see him. Willie’s performance proved anything but frail!

I wandered my thoughts back to the 1980’s when I’d seen Willie in concert in Calgary. Not knowing who he was yet, I was shocked to see many of the ladies in the audience taking off their tops, saluting Willie in a fashion he seemed to be happily familiar with! I kept my top on.

It was pure fascination watching a man, old enough to be my father,  wearing a bandana and long braided hair jamming and singing with a passion and a vocal sound new to me. I felt him embrace every single word, swirling each syllable in his mouth before releasing them into the microphone. “What a voice!” I said after his performance.

I learned that day Willie was part Cherokee and wondered aloud if his vocal sound had something to do with his heritage or exposure to the music of his ancestors. A very tall aboriginal Canadian man dressed in his regalia, overheard my question and turned to me saying, “He’s one of us, got some other blood too but that man is one of a kind. He’s all Willie, nothing but.”

I had smiled knowing I acquired another vocal master to list among my personal collection of nobody-does-it-the-same greats, those being Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Aaron Neville, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, Etta James, Lou Reed, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Joe Cocker and Tina Turner.

Returning to the present, about 30 years later, I watched Willie came onto the stage with his Martin guitar Trigger, named after Roy Rogers’ palomino horse. Despite the worn and fragile appearance of the instrument, Willie played it masterfully and took his audience on a tour of the heart of North America. An elegant Baby Grand Piano shone brilliantly under the stage lights beside Willie, King of Voice.

© Zora Zebic 2016

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