Willie Nelson was a young country music and western-swing fan when he heard Frank Sinatra on the radio for the first time. “Though he was a million miles from western swing, he had a sweet swing of his own,” Nelson wrote in his book It’s a Long Story: My Life. “There was a tenderness to his voice, a purity and ease of phrasing. When he sang the popular songs of the day, I marveled at the natural way he told the story.”
Sinatra helped Nelson find his own indelible style, and the two even went on to play shows together. In 2018, Nelson released My Way, which managed to make Sinatra’s best-known songs sound new again.
On February 26th, Nelson will release That’s Life, another set of Sinatra classics. That’s Life goes a little deeper than his previous Sinatra covers album; in addition to hits like the title track and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” he includes lesser-known songs like “Just in Time” and “The Lonesome Road” from 1959. The album, produced by Buddy Cannon and Matt Rollings, was largely recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, where Sinatra recorded a string of classics from 1956 to 1961.
Nelson has released a highly entertaining lyric video for the title track. The video incorporates footage of the artist Paul Mann, known for his legendary movie posters, painting an image of Nelson under a streetlamp.
Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, “That’s Life” was first recorded in 1963 by Marion Montgomery. Mikal Gilmore, who has written Rolling Stone stories about Bob Dylan, the Clash and more, has authored a deep essay about Nelson and his connection to Sinatra, available to read here. “What Nelson does here on That’s Life — as he did on My Way — is find common ground with Sinatra,” Gilmore writes. “As a result, what binds these singers is an understanding that, regardless of genre, the art of both men is one and the same: giving voice to songs of experience.”
“I’m just glad to be able to do another tribute to him,” Nelson recently said. “I’m anxious to get it out there”
It’s a busy week for Nelson. He also just received his Covid-19 vaccine shot.