In 1985, Willie Nelson partnered with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to throw the first Farm Aid concert to promote awareness about the loss of family farms in America and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. The inaugural Farm Aid was held on September 22, 1985, before an audience of 78,000 in Champaign, Illinois. Fifty-four artists played on the Farm Aid stage, beginning at 10 a.m and playing well through the night. The cost of a ticket? $17.50. To date, Farm Aid has organized 26 concerts and raised over $43 million to keep family farmers on the land. Visit FarmAid.org to see how you can help in your own community or get involved.
When droughts hit, Willie Nelson and Farm Aid have organized
haylifts to deliver hay to farmers who have lost their crops and cannot
feed their animals (the picture here comes from a 1996 farmer-to-farmer haylift for those in Texas suffering from drought). Willie is so hands-on, that he even helps load and
unload hay from the trucks – no small feat for someone pushing 80!
What's more, in 1987, Willie and John (Mellencamp, of course) traveled
to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress (pictured here) about the farm crisis. As a
result of the efforts of Farm Aid and family farm leaders, Congress
passed the Agricultural Credit Act, saving countless farms from
Willie'd rather spend his time on his customized tour bus. This past fall, I had the honor of hanging out with him on the legendary ride (the guy to his left is my boyfriend, not his bodyguard!). The coolest thing of all?
"Biowillie," a biodiesel fuel composed of soybeans and vegetable oils keeps these wheels rolling.
Many artists' success, have gotten a boost by the laid back rocker (Not to mention the countless musicians who have covered his songs,"Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away?" for instance, has recorded versions by everyone from Elvis to Lyle Lovett). In 1962, Patsy Cline's version of Willie's "Crazy" hit #2 country song on the charts. Twenty-something years later, fellow Farm Aid board member Dave Matthews' Grammy-nominated "Crush" partially owes its success to the master lyricist, too: Once, when he was chatting with Willie about "Crazy,” which originally went, “I’m stupid, stupid
for feeling so lonely,” (before producers butted in), Dave agreed that the word swap sounded better, and stole it for his song." Somehow "Stupid, how it feels tonight," just didn't have the same ring for a love song as "Crazy, how it feels tonight..."
He's turning his 80th birthday bash concert into a benefit for victims of the Texas explosion.
Willie, who has a house just miles away from West, Texas, decided to turn his scheduled birthday-celebration concert on April 28 into a benefit for members of the Texas community devastated by the April 17 fertilizer-plant explosion. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of West," Willie stated,"There
are a lot of our friends and loved ones and neighbors down there. We
talked to some of them and some of them made it out OK, and some of them
didn't. But they're strong and they'll be back. It's one of those
things you don't get over. But you will get through it."
Got your own birthday wishes for Willie's 80th? Share your own birthday message for Willie and join the fun at HappyBirthdayWillie.org, and see videos from Willie's friends like John Mellencamp, Kenny Chesney, Sting, Bonnie Raitt and more!