Willie Nelson: 20 Essential Songs

From the signature ballad he wrote for Patsy Cline to his love letter to life on the road

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"Always on My Mind" (1982)

Willie Nelson first heard "Always on My Mind" during the recording sessions for Pancho & Lefty, when studio guitarist Johnny Christopher – one of the song's three co-writers – pitched it to Merle Haggard. When Haggard passed on the tune, Nelson quickly claimed it, re-entering the studio as soon as Pancho & Lefty was done to track another solo album. "Always on My Mind" became the record's titular tune, dressed up with sweeping strings and swelling brass by producer Chips Moman. Elvis Presley's 1972 recording may have popularized the song, but it was Nelson's version – sung in a warbling, guilty-as-charged voice that cuts through Moman's thick arrangement – that won three Grammys. 

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