Willie Nelson is one of my favorite song writers, although he’s not one of my favorite singers. Back when his voice was at it’s prime, it was pretty good. Not terrific like people such as Johnny Bush, Ray Price, or Eddy Arnold, but certainly not stick your fingers in your ears bad. Enjoyable in fact. The only time that I heard Willie Nelson in person, he was well past his prime, although some of that was the venue. Still, I’ve always thought that he was a better lyricist than singer.
Many of his big hits weren’t big hits by him, they were covers by other artists of songs that he wrote. Patsy Cline had a huge hit with “Crazy”, which was written by a then little known Willie Nelson, but rearranged by her producer. Nightlife has been covered by just about everyone from Ray Price to Leon Russell and it’s great song. By the way, this site notes that Nightlife was sold by Willie for $200.00, although he bought back 1/3 of the rights later on. Faron Young had a #1 Country hit with “Hello Walls”. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Ironically, two of his biggest early hits were songs that he didn’t write. Go figure, right?
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, written in 1945 by Fred Rose for Roy Acuff. Nelson released it on his 1975 album “Red Headed Stranger”. It charted at #1 on Billboards Hot Country chart in 1975.
You Were Always On My Mind, written by Johnny Christopher, Mark James, and Wayne Carson, and recorded by too many people to list, including Elvis Presley and of course Willie Nelson. For whom it charted at #1 once again on the Billboard Hot Country chart.
Finally a song both written and performed by Willie Nelson. Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground, was a 1981 #1 single on Billboards Hot Country chart.
In case you’re curious, he’s had 14 #1 singles to date.