When Willie Nelson released his 2016 tribute album to the Gershwin brothers, he was showing his reverence for the Great American Songbook. But the fact is that Nelson’s own works deserve a volume or two. The Texas native has written some of music’s most important titles, from “Crazy,” made famous by Patsy Cline, to “Funny How Times Slips Away,” covered by Elvis Presley.
And then there are the songs with which he has become synonymous, thanks to his charmingly eccentric vocal delivery. It’s impossible to hear a Willie Nelson performance and not identify it as such. Whether he was crooning Countrypolitan fare in the Sixties — his 1962 debut album …And Then I Wrote is remarkable for its wealth of enduring songs — or busting down doors with Waylon Jennings in the Seventies, Nelson was always making waves with that unmistakable voice.
“All of a sudden, we were outlaws,” Nelson told Rolling Stone in 2014, reflecting on the country music rebellion he was credited with launching. “I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. And I tried not to disappoint ’em!”
This list was originally published in April 2016.