On This Date: Willie Nelson’s Album ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ Was #1 On Country Charts In 1981

Willie Nelson country music

Believe it or not, country music legend Willie Nelson was already on his 26th studio album when he released Somewhere Over The Rainbow in 1981.

Nelson has been known to keep his songs short and sweet, and this album was no different. The track list featured 10 different songs, but only ran a total length of 28 minutes and 27 seconds.

Originally released in February of 1981, the album slowly ran its way up the charts to the number one spot three months later. Each of the songs within the album were unique in their own way, as it featured 1940’s pop standards that were arranged by Nelson himself.

The songs had somewhat of a acoustic jazz instrumentation, which was done on purpose by the Country Music Hall of Famer. Arranging the music the way he did was meant to pay tribute to one of Nelson’s heroes, Django Reinhardt.

Reinhardt was called a “Belgian gipsy jazz guitar expert” and heavily influenced the way Willie approached and played his music. Somewhere Over The Rainbow almost acted as a love letter to the artist that meant so much to Nelson both personally and musically.

The album was recorded at Gilley’s Recording Studios in Pasadena, Texas and released under the Columbia label, whom Willie is still with today. The songs were produced by Willie Nelson, Paul Buskirk, and Freddy Powers.

If you have 28 minutes and 27 seconds to kill today, I would highly recommend working your way through Somewhere Over The Rainbow‘s setlist. I can also suggest that you turn on this album for a dinner party because it sets a very ambient tone from the get go with “Mona Lisa,” then let’s you down gently with the best version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” you’ll ever hear.

The combining of country and jazz makes you feel like you are walking through Paris, except not Paris, France. I’m talking about Paris, Tennessee (look it up, they have an Eiffel Tower too).

The set list is below, and I took the liberty of picking out my personal favorites from the album:

“Mona Lisa”
“Exactly Like You”
“Who’s Sorry Now?”
“I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)”
“Won’t You Ride in My Little Red Wagon”
“Over the Rainbow”
“In My Mother’s Eyes”
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”
“It Wouldn’t Be the Same (Without You)”
“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”

“Over the Rainbow”

“I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You)”

“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”

More “Jazzy, Country Willie Nelson” please…

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock