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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"Family Bible" (1971)

Nelson originally wrote this song early in his career, selling the track to be recorded by Texas country artist Claude Gray, who counted the song as his biggest hit. Years later, Nelson included his own version of the song on the 1971 album Yesterday's Wine, a commercially unsuccessful concept album that follows one man's journey from birth to death. The song's lyrics, which celebrate the Southern tradition of maintaining a family Bible, were inspired by Nelson's own grandmother. "Family Bible" was never a big hit for Nelson but remained close to his heart, becoming a concert mainstay and inspiring a 1980 gospel album of the same name. His performance of the song, opposite Johnny Cash during a 1998 VH1 Storytellers, is particularly moving, but never preachy. 

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