And my favorite Willie Nelson song is …

THANKS TO EVERYONE who took the time to post a Willie Nelson song on my timeline yesterday. Thanks for humoring me and thanks for sharing your love for the talent of this great artist.
I spent much of yesterday watching and listening to those YouTube videos that you all posted. Most I’d heard before and have enjoyed immensely over the years, but there were a few that I had never heard – or heard of – before.
The rules of the game were simple: post a video of your favorite Willie song and at the end of the day, if any of your favorites matched my favorite Willie song, you would be designated the winner to receive a piece of original art from me. If there was more than one match, I would place the names in a hat and pick a winner.
However, in trying to decide which is my favorite, I hit a big stumbling block because I couldn’t choose from the top three, so I went with all three. And it turned out that three people posted one of my favorites, and rather than having to pick a winner, I’ve decided that all three will get some artwork.
Interestingly, although Willie has written many, many beautiful songs, my three favorite Willie songs are songs somebody else wrote. Here they are, my favorite Willie songs, not necessarily in this order:
Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain
Written by Frank Rose and first recorded by Roy Acuff, in 1945, “Blue Eyes” had been recorded by numerous artists, including Hank Williams, Ferlin Husky, Conway Tweety and Loretta Lynn, Slim Whitman before Willie included it in his concept album, “Red-Headed Stranger.” It was “Blue Eyes” that re-launched Willie’s career in 1975. Before this, his success had been primarily in writing songs for others. Others recorded this song since (including Elvis) but no one has had the success that Willie enjoyed.
He Was a Friend of Mine
Willie’s beautiful interpretation (used in the film, “Brokeback Mountain,”) is as soulful and haunting as the original — called “Shorty George” and recorded by an inmate named Smith Casey at the Clemens State Farm in Brazoria County, TX, in 1939 — and Bob Dylan’s version. An elegy to a dead friend (presumably a fellow inmate), it evokes sadness, longing and helplessness. The Byrds recorded a version of this after JFK’s assassination. For a more thorough exploration of this song and its many versions, go to Joop’s Musical Flowers.
Can I Sleep in Your Arms
This is also from his “Red-Headed Stranger” album. It was written by Hank Cochran for his then-wife, Jeannie Seely. Titled, “Can I Sleep in Your Arms Tonight, Mister,” it was released in 1973 and was her first major hit. The song shares a melody with the traditional cowboy song, “Red River Valley.” I’m not sure if Cochran adapted his version from another version, called, “May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister.” Both versions are about abandonment and loneliness and the need for human contact. Seely’s version is simple and beautiful, and so is Willie’s, but his inclusion of soulful piano, guitar and harmonica solos give it a depth that really pulls at your heartstrings.

About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
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1 Response to And my favorite Willie Nelson song is …

  1. Ann Chapman says:

    Love my CD of Brokeback Mountain and He Was a Friend of Mine is one of my favorites. Great choice for the movie.

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