Willie Nelson facts: Country singer's age, duets, family and net worth revealed

29 June 2020, 09:46

Willie Nelson facts: Country singer's age, duets, family and net worth revealed
Willie Nelson facts: Country singer's age, duets, family and net worth revealed. Picture: Getty

By Rory O'Connor

Willie Nelson is a huge name in the world of country music. But who is the music star? Here is everything you need to know about singer Willie Nelson:

  1. Who is Willie Nelson?

    Willie Hugh Nelson is an American musician, actor, and activist.

    Willie was raised by his grandparents, wrote his first song at age seven and joined his first band at ten.

    He is one of the most recognised artists in country music, thanks to the success of his 1973 album Shotgun Willie, combined with the success of Red Headed Stranger in 1975, and Stardust in 1978.

    Willie was one of the main figures of outlaw country, a sub-genre of country music that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound.

    The singer has acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and has been involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalisation of marijuana.

    He even owns the bio-diesel brand Willie Nelson Biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oil.

    The singer is widely recognised as an American icon, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, receiving the Kennedy Centere Honours in 1998, inducted to the National Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2011, and winning the Gershwin Prize in 2015.

    In 2018 The Texas Institute of Letters inducted him among its members for his songwriting, before being included in Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers and 100 Greatest Guitarists lists.

  2. How old is Willie Nelson?

    Willie Nelson was born on April 29, 1933. Willie celebrated his 87th birthday in 2020.

    Willie Nelson poses for a portrait with an electric guitar in 1967
    Willie Nelson poses for a portrait with an electric guitar in 1967. Picture: Getty
  3. Where was Willie Nelson born and does he have siblings?

    Willie Nelson was born in Abbott, Texas, on April 29, 1933.

    His parents were Myrle Marie (née Greenhaw) and Ira Doyle Nelson.

    He was named Willie by his cousin Mildred, who also chose Hugh as his middle name, in honour of her recently deceased younger brother.

    His parents moved to Texas from Arkansas in 1929 to look for work.

    Willie Nelson on the set of his video shoot for the song 'Maria/Shut-Up and Kiss Me' in 2002
    Willie Nelson on the set of his video shoot for the song 'Maria/Shut-Up and Kiss Me' in 2002. Picture: Getty

    His grandfather, William, worked as a blacksmith, while his father worked as a mechanic.

    His mother left soon after he was born, and his father remarried and also moved away, leaving Willie and his sister Bobbie to be raised by their grandparents.

    Willie's grandparents taught singing back in Arkansas and introduced their grandchildren in music.

    Willie's grandfather bought him a guitar when he was aged six, and taught him a few chords, writing his first song aged seven.

  4. Is Willie Nelson married and does he have any children?

    Willie Nelson has been married four times and has seven children.

    His first marriage was to Martha Matthews from 1952 to 1962, with the couple having three children together: Lana, Susie, and Willie "Billy" Hugh, Jr. - sadly the latter died by suicide in 1991.

    Unfortunately Willie and Martha's marriage was marked by violence, with Martha assaulting Willie several times, including one incident when she sewed him up in bedsheets and beat him with a broomstick.

    Willie's second marriage was to Shirley Collie in 1963.

    Willie Nelson with sons Lukas and Micah
    Willie Nelson with sons Lukas and Micah. Picture: Getty

    The couple divorced in 1971, after Shirley found a bill from the maternity ward of a Houston hospital charged to Willie and Connie Koepke for the birth of Paula Carlene Nelson.

    Willie married Connie the same year, and they had another daughter together, named Amy Lee Nelson.

    Following a divorce in 1988, he married his current wife, Annie D'Angelo, in 1991.

    Willie and Annie have two sons, Lukas Autry and Jacob Micah.

  5. Which songs are Willie Nelson best known for?

    Willie has a huge catalogue of songs and is known for several big hits... here's just a few of the songs he is known for.

    A talented songwriter and guitarist, Willie is best known for 'On The Road Again'

    The 1980's song was written mid-flight as the theme song for Honeysuckle Rose, a 1980 film about an outlaw country singer who didn’t quite make it to the top, which stared Willie himself.

    The song became Nelson's ninth number one country hit, and was a top 20 pop hit as well.

    In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

    Willie also wrote 'Crazy', which became a career-changing hit for Patsy Cline in 1961, the same year that Willie wrote it.

    Willie wrote 'Crazy' when he was still a struggling songwriter, and pitched it to Patsy's husband after running into him at Nashville's famed Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

    The songwriter later recorded and released his own rendition of the song.

    Other notable songs by Willie include 'Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground', 'Night Life', 'Me and Paul', and 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain'.

  6. Who has Willie Nelson collaborated with?

    Willie Nelson has collaborated with a whole plethora of artists throughout his career.

    Here are just some of his most memorable collaborations.

    Willie released a song with Waylon Jennings called 'Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Life)' in 1977.

    The following year, the pair released 'Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys'.

    In 1985, Willie released 'I Told a Lie to My Heart' with Hank Williams.

    Despite Hank passing away in 1953, Willie used Hank's original recording, believed to be a songwriting demo, for his 1985 song.

    Kacey Musgraves performing with Willie Nelson at the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards in 2019
    Kacey Musgraves performing with Willie Nelson at the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards in 2019. Picture: PA

    Willie teamed up in 1984 with Ray Charles for 'Seven Spanish Angels'.

    Several other stars that Willie has collaborated with includes Dolly Parton, Shirley Collie, George Jones, Ray Price, Julio Iglesias, Hank Williams, Jr., Reba McEntire, Merle Haggard, Tom Petty, Reverend Ike, Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack, Snoop Dogg and Kacey Musgraves.

  7. What is Willie Nelson's net worth?

    Willie Nelson has a net worth of $25 million in 2020, according to reports.

  8. Why is Willie Nelson only worth $25 million, despite all of his record sales and tours? What happened with the IRS?

    Willie Nelson is worth a staggering $25 million, however, it could have been a much higher figure.

    In 1990, the IRS seized most of Willie's assets, claiming that he owed $32 million.

    The IRS claimed he had unpaid taxes, with Willie also having made weak investments in the 1980s which made his situation worse.

    In 1978, after he fired manager Neil Reshen, Willie was introduced by Dallas lawyer Terry Bray to the accounting firm Price Waterhouse.

    To repay the debt Neil had created with the IRS, Willie was recommended to invest in tax shelters that ultimately flopped.

    While the IRS disallowed his deductions for 1980, 1981 and 1982, due to penalties and interests, the debt increased by the end of the decade.

    His lawyer, Jay Goldberg, negotiated the sum to be lowered to $16 million.

    Later, Willie's attorney renegotiated a settlement with the IRS in which he paid $6 million, although Nelson did not comply with the agreement.

    Willie released The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? as a double album, with all profits destined for the IRS.

    Many of his assets were auctioned and purchased by friends, who donated or rented his possessions to him for a nominal fee.

    He sued Price Waterhouse, contending that they put his money in illegal tax shelters.

    The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount and Willie cleared his debts by 1993.