10 Willie Nelson classics to celebrate his birthday

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Willie Nelson turns 89 today and with one of the most comprehensive discography of all time, it was tough to narrow it down to just 10 songs from the 10-time Grammy Winner.

1. On the Road Again

One of Nelson’s most iconic songs wasn’t actually his idea. In 1980, he was starring as an aging musician in the film Honeysuckle Rose. The film’s executive producer wanted a theme song for the movie about life on the road, so Nelson wrote the entire song in about 45 minutes on an airplane barf bag. It quickly shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts and Nelson won a Grammy for Best Country Song. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011.

2. Seven Spanish Angels (duet with Ray Charles)

The song was an immediate hit after it was released as a single from Charles’ 1984 album Friendship. The song was originally pitched to just Nelson, but the pair ultimately split the verses evenly. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts and his since been covered by dozens of artists.

3. Hello Walls

Hello Walls was written by Willie Nelson but originally sung and performed by Faron Young. However, the Willie Nelson version is widely considered to be one of the songs that put him on the map. He recorded his own spin on the song he wrote in 1962 as part of his first solo album ....And Then I Wrote.

4. Pretty Paper

Another Willie Nelson classic that was written by him but not originally performed by him, this one went to Ray Orbison first. However, Nelson’s version debuted in November of 1964.

5. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

The song was originally performed by Roy Acuff, but Nelson has its most notable cover. The song became Nelson’s first No. 1 hit in October of 1975 and saw mainstream success as well as country success. Rolling Stone ranks the song as one of the Top 500 songs of all time.

6. Always on My Mind

The song is the namesake of Nelson’s 27th studio album, which spent 22 weeks as Billboard’s top country album in 1982. Overall, it spent almost five consecutive years on the charts.

7. Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground

Written and performed by Nelson in 1981, this song reached No. 1 on the country charts in both Canada and the U.S. This song also appeared in the film Honeysuckle Rose.

8. City of New Orleans

Another song that was a Willie Nelson album was named after. In 1984, Nelson released his album City of New Orleans, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts. The song itself was also a hit, reaching No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada.

9. Highwayman (with Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson)

The country supergroup helped earned the original songwriter Jimmy Webb win a Grammy for this hit, which was a No. 1 country song for 20 consecutive weeks. The song, of course, inspired the formation of the Highwaymen.

10. Crazy

The song was written and composed by Nelson but first made famous by Patsy Cline. Nelson’s own version appeard on his first studio album.

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