Nearly 60 years into his songwriting career, Willie Nelson has been named the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. He joins an all-star list of composers and performers who’ve received the award in years past, including Carole King, Paul McCartney and the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The Gershwin Prize is named after brothers George and Ira Gershwin, who teamed up during the 20th century to pen some of the American Songbook’s most enduring standards. Nelson, who sang the Gershwin staple “Someone to Watch Over Me” on his 1978 covers album, Stardust, has left a similar mark on American music. With nearly 70 studios albums under his belt, he’s become a rare figure in country music: an outspoken, LGBTQ-friendly, perpetually stoned star who’s beloved by the mainstream, even as he proudly flies against it.
“It is an honor to be the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize. I appreciate it greatly,” he said in a brief statement.
An awards ceremony is being planned for November in Washington, D.C. Filmed for television, the event will shine a light not only Nelson, but also some of the artists he’s inspired during the last half-century, with performances and speeches by many of the musicians in attendance. The evening’s lineup has yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, Nelson — who recently paid tribute to another American icon, Waylon Jennings, during a July 6th concert in Austin — will spend the rest of his summer on the road, sharing a handful of dates with Alison Krauss & Union Station before hitting the highway with Old Crow Medicine Show.