It’s A Long Story: My Life
Willie Nelson with David Ritz
Ah, Willie Nelson. The man is a true Texas original, a creative force who can wear many hats (bandanas?) with ease and aplomb. He’s been a radio DJ, a songwriter, a singer,an author, a studio owner, a concert promoter, an actor, a vacuum salesman, and–oh yes, did I mention he’s still going at a feisty eight-two years old, who has not only released his eighth book, but is about to release his umpteeth album? (Seriously, look at his discography. You’ll see that the man is nothing if not prolific.)
It’s A Long Story isn’t his first book. It isn’t even his first autobiography! But that’s okay, because whatever Willie has to say is worth reading, and here, he’s giving you an insight into his life and his journeys, his loves and his losses, his successes and his failures, his happiness and his disappointments, starting from his early, Depression-era childhood, where he was born the son to two parents who shared the wanderlust that would define Nelson’s life–meaning that he was raised by his grandparents, who loved him and sister Bobbie, and, more importantly, gave them their musical background and encouragement. His early years were hard, but Nelson holds no grudges; while it would be easy to blame or be angry at his parents, he isn’t; he is the same cool, calm Nelson, who takes it all as it happens.
Framing the sections of the book around his well-publicized IRS woes that many prognosticators expected would be his creative demise, it’s that easy-going personality that flows through the pages of It’s A Long Story. If there’s a dark cloud, he finds a silver lining; when things are grim or thoughts are low, he’s got his music to bring him through–and, really, Nelson doesn’t really give many insights–or details–to some of the bad things that happened to him along the way. Besides, you can seek out his previous books for more of the dirty details and gossip about those bad things that happened along the way. That’s okay, though; you can find plenty of texts that talk about the mythic “outlaw” Willie Nelson; it’s nice to have him talk plainly and generally about his life without getting caught up in anger, bitterness, or regret. Even what he declares one of the saddest moments of his life–the suicide of his son, Billy, in 1991–is regulated to a very brief mention.
While written in his distinctive conversational style, there’s a wistfulness to It’s A Long Story that makes one think that he’s giving the final word on his life, and that this exercise in telling his story was as much for him as it was his audience. Considering that the book was published in conjunction with his eighty-second birthday, perhaps it’s not incorrect to interpret this as the final say of his long, humorous, interesting journey through life.