Willie Nelson has an impressive 25 #1 singles under his belt.
And on this date in 1981, he scored his seventh #1 on the country charts with his fan-favorite “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”.
Of course, he wrote the song for his starring role as a country singer in the 1980 film Honeysuckle Rose, but the true inspiration behind it remains pretty vague and unclear.
Some fans believe that because of the word “angel” in the title, Willie wrote it about his friend, Hells Angels biker Charlie Magoo, though Willie has never confirmed or denied that.
Willie has also hinted in the past that it’s actually about his ex-wife, Connie Koepke.
And during live performances, he occasionally dedicates this song to his son Billy, the third child from his first marriage to Martha Matthews, who committed suicide in 1991.
Bob Dylan, Cross Canadian Ragweed and Alison Krauss have all covered the song over the years too, and according to Willie himself, it was written to be general and ambiguous, which has allowed fans to apply it to their own personal situations:
“It’s a pretty general theme that can be taken and applied to a lot of different situations. A lot of people have taken it and applied it to their own situation.
You could relate it to someone who has died, love affairs or whatever… It has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people who have no idea why I wrote that song.”
We all know Willie is a brilliant songwriter, one of the best to ever create music, and this song is a perfect and shining example of how masterful he was with a pen, writing about his own, unique life situations in a way that anyone on the planet can relate to.
It’s simply genius, and it’s why he’s the beloved country and pop culture icon that he is today.
And how about this 1984 performance, which features recently released vintage footage from Willie’s live album Willie Nelson Live At Budokan.
What I would give to go back to this moment and see it live in person:
And the movie scene from Honeysuckle Rose: