The Digital Journalist
Selected photos from Michael O'Brien's The Face of Texas.
© Michael O'Brien

Michael O'BrienWatch a video clip of Michael O'Brien discussing Willie Nelson.
(Quicktime required)

Willie Nelson/AUSTIN or DRIPPING SPRINGS - Willie Nelson, 66, is a man who has paid his dues. He's risen from a guitar-playing farm boy with a dream--who got his start playing local honky-tonks--to a renowned songwriter and ultimately, one of the most beloved entertainers of our time. Along the way, Nelson sold vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias and Bibles, worked as a disc jockey, labored for years in songwriting obscurity in Nashville-- and wrestled with the IRS over millions of dollars in back taxes. Though it was his accounting firm that had steered him wrong, it was Willie who took the rap.

In addition, Nelson, the father of six children, has weathered three divorces (he's on his fourth marriage).

Throughout it all, Nelson has managed to stay true to his dream and give back more to the world than he has ever gotten. One of his greatest contributions, besides his music, is Farm Aid, a series of rock concerts he helped organize that has raised millions of dollars to help the plight of independent farmers.

Nelson was born in Fort Worth and grew up on a farm in nearby Abbott. He has come back full circle to his rural Texas roots to Dripping Springs, outside Austin, where he owns a ranch, complete with an old Western movie set he calls Luck, TX (location for the flim The Red-Headed Stranger). Since the mid-70s, he has hosted a now-famous Fourth-of-July rock picnic on his ranch for his fans.

Nelson, author of such timeless American ballads as "Crazy," "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain," and "On the Road Again," was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993.