Willie Nelson’s History of Giving Back After a Life of Trauma and Assault – A True American Hero
You know and love him as the rough and tough, true blood American crooner, but Willie Nelson’s claim to fame runs much deeper. With a bandana around his head and known for his outlaw country style, he’s the artist you have to turn up every time he comes on the radio.
Willie Nelson is your hero, the guy you grew up listening to and longing to be. While most country music lovers treasure his music and passion, they also see him as the true patriarch of the family. Here’s the thing – this hard-souled, chiseled hand performer is a divisive, vocal activist. When he’s passionate about something, it comes through easily in his efforts.
Passion That Stems from a Tough, Hard-Won Life
Consider, for a moment, just where his love-hate-relationship with the world comes from. Born in in April of 1933, he was born in the middle of the Great Depression. His family moved from place-to-place looking for work. He was just six years old when his grandfather taught him the guitar, just a few chords at a time. He wrote his first song just a year later. Life wasn’t easy during these times, but he had a talent he seemed to be born with to rely on.
He went on to play some football in high school, holding the left halfback position. Later, he worked for an electric company, as a tree trimmer, and even spent nine months in the United States Air Force. He worked as a bouncer at a nightclub (can you imagine Willie Nelson coming after you with a bat). He also worked as a parts man for an auto house and made horse saddles. He’s the type of guy we read about in history books just trying to make it all work.
Assaulted and in Financial Distress
During his first marriage, you could say Nelson faced even more challenges. His first wife, Martha Mathews, was filled with violence. Reports indicate that Matthews assaulted Nelson numerous times. In one situation, she beat him with a broomstick. That marriage lasted 10 years. He had three of his seven children during that time.
Financial devastation was a key part of life growing up, but it didn’t stop there. Investments he made during the 1980s soured, leaving him with the IRS seizing assets claiming he owed $32 million in unpaid taxes. The financial mess would have left any other famed star facing shame. Yet, even through all of this, Nelson comes out a hero.
Activism Isn’t for the Weak
He could have been like just about any other music star you know – made his money, got arrested for drinking and doing drugs (that’s on his list, too), and spent his years living his best life. He didn’t stop there. What makes Nelson so unique is he’s a constant activist for the things he is passionate about. And, there’s lots of those things.
He set up Farm Aid in 1985 to help support family farms, along with his pal Bob Dylan.
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In 2018, Farm Aid granted a total of $695,679. Willie Nelson said: “As farmers continue to face incredible threats to their survival, our grant decisions were guided by the need to first and foremost strengthen organizations that provide essential resources to keep family farmers on the land. We are so grateful for the hard work and commitment of folks across the country who fight for family farms.” Get all the details about our grant program at farmaid.org/our-work/grants
Later, in 2001, he participated in a benefit telethon after September 11th. He also cares about the environment. He founded Biodiesel, or Bio-Willie as some would call it. The company made bio-diesel fuel available at truck stops, all made from vegetable oil.
Sure, you can say Nelson is a hard-fought country music superstar, but he’s deeper than that. This Red Headed Stranger is all about living life and making his passions known, even at the age of 85.