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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"Half a Man" (1963)

This slow-churning shuffle from Nelson's 1963 sophomore album Here's Willie Nelson was one of his earliest tracks to earn commercial chart success, peaking at Number 25 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It's emblematic both of Nelson's penchant for creative storytelling and his classic country croon, as he lends a showman's touch to a metaphor-heavy song that would sound gimmicky in less capable hands. The track, which Nelson wrote himself, features the plaintive pedal steel of Tommy Jackson, with famed rockabilly musician Tommy Allsup handling production duties. The song has had many incarnations, from Nelson's original recording to a 1982 cover by Merle Haggard (on Going Where the Lonely Go) to a re-recorded duet with George Jones included on Half Nelson.

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