And in his newly-released book, Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs, the red headed stranger is giving fans a new perspective on some of his biggest hits, deep cuts and longtime fan-favorites by providing commentary on the inspiration behind many of them.
In particular, he recalls a story involving his friend Merle Haggard and Willie’s hit song “The Party’s Over.”
Written by Willie and recorded very early in his career in the mid-1950’s, Claude Gray released the original version of the song as “My Party’s Over” in 1959.
Willie recorded it himself in 1966, released it as a single in February of 1967, and it ultimately became the title track to a subsequent album.
It peaked at just #24 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, and even though it wasn’t a mega-hit or anything compared to some of his other classics, remains a fan-favorite to this day.
He writes that the ultimate message of the song is that, from time to time, “we all get to feeling sorry for ourselves”:
“Some people say it’s not good to feel sorry for yourself. Maybe so, but when it comes to songwriting, self-pity ain’t a bad attitude to embrace.
Folks relate. From time to time, we all get to feeling sorry for ourselves.”
He also added that it:
Of course, later in the 70’s, the song got new life when it was included on a live album and was also popularized popularized by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith, a friend of his, who was also a commentator on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
He would often sing the first line of the song on the broadcasts when a team had a sizable lead, which Willie says he was more than okay with, for obvious reasons:
“Along with Howard Cosell on ‘Monday Night Football,’ Don let you know when the game was out of reach by singing his out-of-tune version of ‘The Party’s Over.’
I couldn’t care less that he was out of tune, especially because he’d tell those millions of football fans that Willie Nelson was the writer and they better go see ol’ Willie the next time he comes to their town.”
And when it came to his longtime pal and collaborator Mr. Haggard, The Hag told Willie it was “the saddest party song ever written”:
“That’s the saddest party song ever written.”
To which Willie replied with an all-time classic line:
“‘Maybe so, Merle,’ I said, ‘but there’s good money in sadness.'”
Touché… and Nelson has obviously made a career out of writing some of the saddest songs of all-time, in addition to plenty of other happier ones, which is how he became a pioneer of the country outlaw movement in the 1970’s and one of the most iconic, legendary musicians that’s ever touched a guitar.
And speaking of Willie and Merle, their country standard “Pancho and Lefty” is featured on Willie’s Greatest Hits album that’s out everywhere today.
Willie also gearing up for his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction tonight.