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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"Crazy" (1962)

Nelson had originally hoped Grand Ole Opry member Bill Walker would record "Crazy," but Walker deemed the song too feminine. So Nelson pitched it to Patsy Cline, whose 1961 recording of "Crazy" became one of the defining ballads of the 20th century. One year later, Nelson released his own version, singing the song in a voice untarnished by age or pot smoke. It's one of the earliest examples of his unique, unpredictable phrasing, with each word landing somewhere before or after the actual beat. Cline took a different approach, smoothing out the imprecision she'd heard on Nelson's demo in favor of steady, controlled vocals. For a song about heartache, though, Nelson's is perhaps the more effective performance, delivered with the halting hesitancy of someone who's coming to grips with his own craziness.

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