By Willie Nelson with David Ruiz
Published in 2015 by Little Brown.
Reviewed by Tony Burnett.
Willie Nelson’s new autobiography, A Long Story, My Life, is a must read for Willieophiles. The iconic Texas minstrel digs deep, spending a large portion of the journal exploring the lesser-known events of his childhood in Abbott, Texas and his early years developing his talents in the rough trade dives along Fort Worth’s notorious King’s Highway. Willie also reveals a number of surprises about his philosophical and spiritual journey, mostly as it pertains to his career decisions.
My Life, is neither a glorified PR statement nor a tabloid tell-all. It’s written in a conversational tone where most of his family and acquaintances (yes, including all four of his wives) are presented fairly and with forgiveness. He even claims to have a cordial relationship with the Internal Revenue Service; very interesting how this came about.
One of my favorite insights as to the way he’s lived his life is a quote near the end of the book: “My integrity is what it’s always been: a flexible thing, just like my music. It can bend this way and that.”
Willie doesn’t talk about his children in depth beyond names and birth dates, stating “That’s their book to write”. On the other hand his revelations about other country music icons and industry professionals reveals many particulars of their habits and politics.
At eighty one years old a fellow becomes introspective and philosophical. In the case of A Long Story, Willie has enlisted David Ruiz as a co-writer. As is Willie’s way, he works well in collaboration with other artists, always giving them equal billing. Such is the case with Ruiz, who doesn’t interfere with the flow of Willie’s story but seems to merely organize it thematically.
If you’ve ever had a desire to sit down with Willie over a game of dominoes or poker and chat, this is your chance. Don’t expect him to pop open a long neck with you though. Since the mid-70s he eschews cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, except the one he promotes and supports for legalization.
Willie just turned 82. He still does over 250 live shows a year and records at least one album, in addition to his Farm Aid concert and Fourth of July Picnic. Maybe he’s onto something. Maybe, like his home state, he’s just too damn ornery to stop.
Tony Burnett has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2010 and currently serves on the Board of Directors. His recent story collection, Southern Gentlemen, has been receiving positive reviews. He resides with his trophy bride, Robin, deep in the heart of Texas.

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