Willie Nelson doesn’t turn 87 for another week, but Nathaniel Rateliff is already celebrating. The singer, songwriter, and leader of his band the Night Sweats has released the joyful track “Willie’s Birthday Song.” Featuring Nelson’s sister Bobbi Nelson on piano and his longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael, the song shouts out many of the Red Headed Stranger’s most famous song titles and melodies.
“Pass me that joint, it’s Willie’s birthday/wipe away all of your tears/The world’s gone crazy but we still got Willie/and all the good things he’s done for us here,” Rateliff sings, as Mariachi horns and Raphael’s evocative harmonica drive along the rhythm.
The song is the latest entry in Rateliff’s “Marigold Singles” series, which raises money for his foundation the Marigold Project in support of economic and social justice organizations. He’ll release an all-star video for the track on Nelson’s actual birthday of April 29th: Lukas and Micah Nelson, Matthew Logan Vasquez, Nikki Lane, and Courtney Marie Andrews all lend background vocals.
Rateliff debuted the song during Nelson’s 4/20 variety show “Come and Toke It” earlier this week. A summer vinyl release is also planned.
Past “Marigold Singles” include Rateliff and John Prine singing “Sam Stone” and a rendition of Prine’s “Summer’s End” by Rateliff and Courtney Marie Andrews