Willie Nelson is Celebrated By All-Star Lineup on His 90th Birthday

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Willie Nelson performing with Snoop Dogg at the Hollywood Bowl, April 29, 2023 (Photo: Joshua Timmermans; used with permission)

Willie Nelson turned 90 on April 29, 2023, and many of his musical friends helped him celebrate the momentous occasion. “Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90,” a two-day event at the Hollywood Bowl on April 29-30, featured such stars as Emmylou Harris, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, Snoop Dogg, Dave Matthews, Tom Jones, George Strait, and Kris Kristofferson and Rosanne Cash, who sang an emotional duet. They were joined by a house band led by Don Was, and performances by Lyle Lovett, Norah Jones, Rodney Crowell, Sheryl Crow, Bobby Weir, Nathaniel Rateliff, Gary Clark Jr., and Nelson himself, among many others.

“I can’t think of a better way to spend my 90th birthday than being surrounded by family, friends, and of course the fans who made this all possible,” said Nelson in the original Jan. 24th announcement. “It’s an honor to perform with such an incredible group of artists at such an iconic venue.” The event’s first day fell on the legend’s actual birthday.

Each show lasted four hours. Among the many artists also performing over the two nights: Beck, Billy Strings, Chris Stapleton, Edie Brickell, Kacey Musgraves, Jack Johnson, Nelson’s sons Lukas Nelson and Micah Nelson, Margo Price, Miranda Lambert, Sturgill Simpson, the Avett Brothers, the Chicks, Warren Haynes, and Ziggy Marley.

The evening’s performances began with “Whiskey River,” performed by the 30 year-old guitarist and bluegrass musician Billy Strings.

Related: Keith Richards was a surprise guest at night two on April 30

Kris Kristofferson and Rosanne Cash at the Hollywood Bowl, April 29, 2023 (Photo: Joshua Timmermans)

At the red carpet event on the first night, Lovett said, “When you’re with Willie, you walk away feeling inspired.” Rosanne Cash, herself a member of a legendary country music family, told an interviewer that she first met her father Johnny’s “brothers”—Nelson, Kristofferson and Jennings while in her teens—referring to those musicians who performed with her father as The Highwaymen as “the Mt. Rushmore guys. And now he and Kris are the last ones standing.”

It was thus a great moment when Cash was introduced and began singing “Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” when none other than Kristofferson, still “just” 86, joined her on stage for the duet. It concluded with a warm embrace. [The first clip is a close-up of a portion of the duet, followed by the full performance.]

“I’m so happy to be here,” said Norah Jones. “I love Willie so much.” She paid tribute to his sister, Bobbie, a pianist and an integral part of Nelson’s band, who died in 2022, by playing the jaunty traditional, “Down Yonder.” Shen then performed Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

“I’m only 83 so I’ve got something to look forward to,” said Tom Jones, before he sang Nelson’s “Opportunity To Cry.” “I hope he likes it,” Jones said.

Warren Haynes performed the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider.”

At the evening’s three-hour mark, Stills and Young performed Stills’ anthem, “For What It’s Worth.” [Their two-song set began with “Long May You Run.”

Nelson himself didn’t appear until three hours into the show. Stills and Young remained on stage to join the guest of honor on “Are There Any More Real Cowboys.”

Stephen Stills, Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson and Neil Young (Photo ©Jay Blakesberg; used with permission)

Watch Nelson and Strait duet on Strait’s “Sing One With Willie”

And here’s Willie and Snoop Dogg performing Snoop’s “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

Watch Nelson lead all the performers to sing a portion of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” before they all sang “Happy Birthday” and “It’s Hard To Be Humble” to conclude the evening

Thanks to Todd Norris and others for the videos.

Related: 14 great Willie Nelson collaborations

The event was produced by Blackbird Presents. With a career spanning an incredible seven decades, Nelson is widely recognized as one of the greatest and most influential artists in the history of popular music. A true living legend who has built a globally celebrated career as a musician, author, actor, and activist. In the past year, as the definitive five-part documentary film on his extraordinary life and career is set to premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, Nelson released several new albums (receiving four nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards), authored his latest book, and continues to perform across the country while also headlining iconic festivals including Farm Aid, July 4th Picnic and his Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

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2 Comments so far

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  1. Da Mick
    #1 Da Mick 27 April, 2023, 11:53

    Willie continues to be like no one else. The thing about him is that he can still sing and play. I believe there are a number of people on this appearance list who can no longer honestly perform anymore. I think it’s great if they want to show up and add their legend to the cause, but please, use discretion and hold on to your legacy. Wanting to do something and your ability to pull it off are sometimes two different things, especially with regard to age and frailty. Even Tony Bennett had to cease performing at some point. Take a cue from a master.

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    • Yvette
      Yvette 1 May, 2023, 01:26

      I realize some Performers are no longer at their full Musical Potential. However, it was so Special to see them ALL there to Celebrate Willie’s Happy Birthday Celebration!!!

      Reply this comment

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