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Musical Legend Willie Nelson on Farm Aid, Biodiesel Fuel, Outlaw Country Music, Marijuana Laws, the Impeachment of President Bush, the 9/11 Attacks & More

StoryFebruary 21, 2008
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Country music legend Willie Nelson joins us for the hour to talk politics and to play some songs, including “A Moment of Forever,” “On the Road Again,” “You’re Always on My Mind” and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The name Willie Nelson is synonymous with the wide popularity country music enjoys in the United States and around the world. Yet Nelson’s career has very little traces of the conformity that often goes hand-in-hand with such widespread acclaim. No, the “Red Haired Stranger,” as he is known to his fans, has staked his legacy around challenging convention. Musically, he shunned the traditional Nashville country scene by pioneering his own subgenre, known as outlaw country. And over several decades he has been consistently involved in social justice causes.

He co-founded Farm Aid, the annual benefit and awareness-raising concert for small farmers. Nelson has entered environmental entrepreneurship, partnering in a biodiesel plant that fuels trucks with vegetable oil. He has been a vocal advocate for decriminalizing marijuana, co-chairing the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws advisory board. He has voiced support for progressive candidates like Dennis Kucinich, endorsing his run for the presidency in 2004. And he’s been a harsh critic of the Iraq war and the Bush administration, recently calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

AMY GOODMAN: Willie Nelson was in New York last night to headline Democracy Now!’s twelfth anniversary gala event. Today he joins us in our firehouse studio for the hour.

Willie Nelson, welcome.


AMY GOODMAN: Before we start our conversation, let’s begin with a song. Your choice.

WILLIE NELSON: This is a Kris Kristofferson song.

    Was it wonderful for you?
    Was it holy as it was for me?
    Could you feel the hand of destiny
    that was guiding us together?
    You were young enough to dream.
    I was old enough to learn something new.
    I’m so glad I got to dance with you
    for a moment of forever.
    Sometimes when you’re cryin’, you’re happy.
    Sometimes you’re just cryin’,
    I know. I know.
    Come whatever happens now.
    Ain’t it nice to know that dreams still come true?
    I’m so glad that I was close to you
    for a moment of forever.
    Sometimes when you’re cryin’, you’re happy.
    Sometimes you’re just cryin’,
    I know. I know.
    Come whatever happens now.
    Ain’t it nice to know that dreams still come true?
    I’m so glad that I was close to you
    for a moment of forever.

AMY GOODMAN: “Moment of Forever,” the title song on your latest album.


AMY GOODMAN: When did you write it?

WILLIE NELSON: I didn’t write that. Kris Kristofferson wrote that a few years ago and sang it for me, and, you know, I listened to it and I thought, well, that’s really a good song. But I really didn’t get that hung up on it until recently, when I went in the studio and the producer brought me that song again and said, “Here’s a song by Kris.” And I said, “I remember that song.” And I got into singing it, and I said, “Yeah, this is better than I remembered. “

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, you’ve got so many millions of fans around the world for your music, but not as many know about all of the activities that you’ve been involved in over the years. I guess the most famous, of course, is Farm Aid. Could you talk to us a little bit about how you got involved with Farm Aid and how it developed?

WILLIE NELSON: Every year for several years, I had done the Illinois State Fair, and Big Jim Thompson, the governor of Illinois, and I got to be buddies. And every year, he’d come on the bus, and we’d have a beer, a bowl of chili, and we’d talk about things and politics and whatever. And this particular year, he told me that, you know, there’s big problems in the Farm Belt now, that farmers are having a lot of trouble. So we started talking about that and started trying to figure out, well, what we can we do to call attention to it. So he obtained the facility there in Illinois, in Champaign, Illinois, and we did our first Farm Aid.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about sustainable biodiesel, the whole idea, the company that you founded with Annie Nelson, your wife?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, the whole idea is to keep it local, is to grow — the farmers can grow what we need — food, fuel — over across the road over there, and we can buy it from them, consume it, and everything stays within the community. The problem is when we start importing everything, then you have all the transportation, all the environmental issues, and the price goes high. So biodiesel is a great idea, but it has to be done locally, has to be sustained locally and has to be for the local community, or else, you know, it’s no different than any other energy cartel. We have to keep things local. Our farmer grows it. We buy it from him, whether it’s food or fuel. He makes a couple of bucks. We consume it. If there’s anything over, we might send it out north a hundred miles or so. But otherwise, it stays right here.

The ideal situation would be to have a biodiesel plant here and then to have a truck stop and then to have an interstate, where you have the whole thing set up. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Carl’s Corner, Texas, where we’re putting in a biodiesel plant. In fact, it’s already up and rolling, and the truck stop is almost built there, a brand new facility and right on Interstate 35. So we have all the ingredients necessary to keep it local, keep it sustainable.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Right, because I think that’s the fear, obviously, of a lot of folks. We’ve had many of the — some of the Latin American leaders who have been here and saying Brazil, of course, is now building up this huge biodiesel industry, really, and they’re so worried about the prices of food going up as a result of the land being used just for biodiesel fuel. So your approach would keep it completely local for every —-

WILLIE NELSON: Every country.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Every country.

WILLIE NELSON: And, you know, so we don’t have to import, and they don’t have to export. Whatever they grow, they can use it locally, and whatever happens locally, they enjoy all the sustainability, all the profits, without sending it all the way here to us, where we’ve got to pay transportation charges -— or somebody does — when we could be growing it ourselves. So whatever we do, we have to do it local and keep it sustainable.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have a song that you have written or someone else’s song that you like to play around issues of sustainability and biodiesel that comes to mind?

WILLIE NELSON: Not really. I really haven’t written any music, you know, along those lines. Maybe I will some day or get Kris to.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your biodiesel bus.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, the bus runs on biodiesel, when we can find it, and that’s still an issue, is being able to go around the country like we do. And there’s a lot of artists who now are trying to use biodiesel as much as they can. And you can go to biodiesel.org, or you can go to websites and find out where you can obtain it across the country.

And I do a radio show every Wednesday on XM Radio, Satellite Radio, on Bill Mack’s show, and we talk about biodiesel, and I talk to all the truckers going up and down the highway, and they tell me they use it, they like it, it’s good for the engines, they get good gas mileage. And so, the American truckers have been the ones who have spread the word about biodiesel as much as anybody.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it smell like?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I guess it depends. Vegetable oil can — your tailpipe can smell like French fries. You know, we have a couple of cars over in Maui that run completely on vegetable oil. My wife Annie wanted to buy — this is about three or four years ago, I guess — she wanted to buy this Volkswagen Jetta, a diesel that she wanted to run it on vegetable oil. That’s the first time I had heard anything ridiculous like that, you know, so I accused her of being in my stash. And she laughed and said, “Well, I’m going to do it anyway.” So she bought this Volkswagen. It ran beautifully, and still does, on vegetable oil, and the tailpipe smells like French fries. So I bought a Mercedes and did the same thing. And I think the Mercedes people became a little nervous when I bought one of their cars and crammed it full of vegetable oil. But it runs like a sewing machine. It runs good, and I use it a hundred percent.

And you can do that in Maui because there’s no weather problems. But, you know, biodiesel will gel in real cold weather, so a lot of the truckers are using what they call a B20, which is a blend of diesel and biodiesel, and that’s working really well in cold weather. So it is an answer to our problems.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Another one of your big issues has been marijuana reform laws. We’d like to get into that, but I think we’re going to first take a break.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to a break, and this break comes from, well, last night’s Democracy Now! twelfth anniversary gala. Our headliner was none other than, well, the man who’s sitting right here, music legend Willie Nelson.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today for the hour is music legend Willie Nelson. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, I was beginning to ask you before the break about your involvement with marijuana reform laws and what the reception you get around the country when you are involved in the efforts — some states obviously are changing, but it’s been a slow change over the decades now to get the country to reform its marijuana laws.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, yeah, and there are several states already where it’s legalized for medicinal purposes. Twelve states, I think, already. And so, I think it’s a matter of time, it’s a matter of education, a matter of people finding out really what cannabis/marijuana is, what it’s for, why it grows out of the ground, why it’s prescribed as one of the greatest stress medicines on the planet. So there’s a lot of things people are learning about it. I think that’s why it’s becoming more and more acceptable around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the laws will change?

WILLIE NELSON: Yes, they have to. You know, it’s just — it’s just not anything wrong with marijuana if you use it responsibly. And it’s not anything for kids; I’m not advocating that at all. But a lot of people will tell you, a lot of doctors will tell you that it is a good medicine for stress. And that’s the end of the story, really.

AMY GOODMAN: By the way, throughout this interview, if at any point you feel like breaking into song, don’t let us stop you.


AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your parents and where you were born.

WILLIE NELSON: I was born in Abbott, Texas, a little small town in central Texas, and I was raised by my grandparents. And my parents divorced when I was six months old, and my grandparents raised me. And my granddad was a blacksmith, and so I spent a lot of time in the blacksmith shop, growing up there. And both my grandmother and my granddad were music teachers and singers, and they sang the old-fashioned shape notes, you know, and we’d sing in church: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. And I feel like that the education that I received in Abbott, Texas, was as good and as general as one that I could have found anywhere in the world. Everything that I found in the rest of the world, I found in small amounts in Abbott, Texas, so it was really a good training ground.

AMY GOODMAN: You were born what year?


AMY GOODMAN: Seventy-five.


AMY GOODMAN: What’s your birthday?


AMY GOODMAN: April 29th, 1933.


JUAN GONZALEZ: And you’re still touring regularly?

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, yeah. We still do, you know, 150, 200 days a year.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I wanted to ask about the time in Texas. Obviously, Texas has always had a large Mexican population and influence, and Tex-Mex music developed in southern parts of the state. Most people are not aware that there’s been quite a bit of intermingling or ties between Tex-Mex and country, in general. Any influence at all during your youth?

WILLIE NELSON: Yeah. Oh, a lot. In fact, I grew up across the street from, you know, the Villarias, which was a great Mexican family there. In fact, there was three houses right across the street from me. So, day and night, I listened to Mexican music, and I’m sure, you know, my guitar playing, singing, writing, whatever, has a lot of Mexican flavor there, but it comes natural.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the whole subgenre outlaw country? What does that mean? How did you get into it?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, Waylon, I think, was — had a lot to do with the “outlaw” title, and maybe, me, too, but we were sort of unconventional, I guess, when we went to Nashville, and we had our own ideas of what we wanted to do and the way we wanted our music to sound. I mean, Waylon and I didn’t even know each other at the time, but we both had the same rebellious ideas, that we were stubborn and wanted to play our music the way we wrote it and the way we feel it. And there was elements in Nashville — and not only Nashville, around the world — where whoever put up the money said this is the kind of music we want. So there was always that problem, and there still is. But Waylon and I managed to get it done our own way, and, you know, they put the label “outlaw” on us for doing it. And I wear it as a badge, and I kind of enjoy it.

AMY GOODMAN: Johnny Cash — talk about your relationship with Johnny, his influence and what he meant to you and what he means to music.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, of course, John was one of the original instigators, one of the original outlaws, and he had always done it his way, and he’d always gone against the grain, uphill, whatever. And so, eventually, it was inevitable that we had to get together. So —-

AMY GOODMAN: Where did you meet?

WILLIE NELSON: I met him -— well, he and Waylon lived together in Nashville for awhile, and Kris was in town, and I was there, so — in Nashville.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

WILLIE NELSON: Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash. And eventually we did the Highwaymen recordings and tours, which was a traveling circus. It was 278 pieces of luggage, because all our families and kids and everybody traveled with us around the world. And we did two world tours that way and really had a lot of fun.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the music industry and talk about the kind of music that, you know, corporate publishing allows and how you have led your life?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, there’s always the music industry. There’s always the business part of it. And I’ve always tried to dodge that part of it, because I didn’t really want to go along with all those things, where it has to be done this way, a song has to be two minutes long or has to have this and that in it. So the music industry or the music business and I never did really gel all that well.

AMY GOODMAN: You were with RCA Victor Records?

WILLIE NELSON: I was with RCA. Before that, I was with Monument Records, and before that I was with an independent label. And so, through the years, I’ve been with a few labels. But, yeah, I was with RCA when Chet Atkins was running RCA, the Nashville division.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We often, on the show, try to deal with what’s happening to media companies around the world, especially in the United States, and we’ve done a lot of emphasis on Clear Channel and the impact of Clear Channel and the ownership of radio stations on the kind of music that they play. From your perspective as a musician, what’s been the impact of all this consolidation of ownership of all these radio stations?

WILLIE NELSON: When I was a young guy growing up and playing around and playing Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, whatever, and taking my band, one of the good things back in those days was that I could call a disc jockey there in Fort Worth and say, “Hey, I’ve got a new record. I want to bring it over. And play it for me, because I’m playing Panther Hall this next week, and I need the promotion.” And you could do that. Or else I could write a song today and record it tonight, and within two weeks I could have it out on the market, because it was set up that way.

Now, that’s almost impossible. You write a song today, you record it next year, and then, two years later, it comes out. And we’ve lost really control over our music, because of the fact that so much of it is done now — it’s programmed in another state, somewhere else. And so, when I was a disc jockey, I used to go in and grab a handful of records and go in there and sit down and play for two or three hours.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Where were you a disc jockey?

WILLIE NELSON: I started out in Texas at KHBR in Hillsboro, then KBOP in Pleasanton and KCNC in Fort Worth. And then I went around to — went up to Vancouver, Washington, KVAN up there. So, all over the country I was a disc jockey, and it sort of fit in with what I was playing music in the clubs at night, so I could enhance my income a little bit by disc jockeying.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you play a song from your Highwaymen days with Kris and Waylon and Johnny Cash?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, let me see. What would we do? Well, we did “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” We did that. I can do a verse of that for you.

    Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
    Don’t let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks.
    Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.
    Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys.
    They’ll never stay home, and they’re always alone,
    even with someone they love.
    Cowboys ain’t easy to love, and they’re harder to hold.
    They’d rather give you a song than diamonds and gold.
    Lone Star belt buckles and old faded Levi’s and each night begins a new day
    And if you don’t understand him and he don’t die young,
    he’ll probably just ride it away.

AMY GOODMAN: In case you haven’t guessed, music legend Willie Nelson is our guest for the hour. He’s here in New York, usually traveling around on his biodiesel bus — his sustainable biodiesel bus. Usually country music is identified with conservative politics, you know, people like Toby Keith, someone that is your colleague, your comrade in the music business. Yet, you are known for extremely progressive politics. How do you bridge that, and why do you think country is identified with those kind of politics?

WILLIE NELSON: It’s not really hard to bridge it. And as far as Toby is concerned, he’s not half as conservative as some people might think he is.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, yeah? Explain.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, you know, he wrote these two or three songs, you know, that sort of sounded like he might be for the war or for this, but I know Toby real well, and we’ve talked it, and he said, “I was sort of misread. You know, that wasn’t really what I was talking about.” He’s a big Democrat, Toby is, but he got a bad rap when he recorded a couple of war songs that made him look sort of that way.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you feel about the war, Willie Nelson?

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, I hate it. I hate that we went. I hate that we’re there. I hate that we’re not out. I hate it.

AMY GOODMAN: You must talk to a lot of soldiers, soldiers who are going, soldiers who are coming back. What’s your sense of how they feel?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, of course, you get two different stories. You get the story of the guy who says, “Well, I wish it was over. I’ll be glad to come home. I hate it.” And you hear another guy say, “Well, I’m here. We have a reason to be here.” So you have all those ideas, and I can understand how both sides feel. If I were a soldier over there and I had signed up to do a job and I was there, I would be there until I wasn’t needed anymore or until they told me. But on the outside, I would have never joined to begin with, and I wouldn’t be there unless I was drafted to be there. So I think we ought to pull our troops out, come home. You know, if we have a border problem, put them on the border. Put them on the Canadian and the Mexican border, so we don’t have to worry about immigration. We have our own border security. That’s where we need those couple hundred thousand people.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you’ve raised, in recent times, also your concern over the job that President Bush is doing. You’ve called for his impeachment. As a fellow Texan, your sense of why you decided to call for the impeachment of President Bush?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, when you break the law, something is supposed to happen to you. I don’t care if you’re a president or not. If you break the law, you have to pay for that. And I think laws have been broken. That’s my outlook on it.

AMY GOODMAN: What laws?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I think we were lied to about the reasons we went to war. I think we are lied to every day about things that are happening. I think things are — we’re being spied on, or our phone conversations are being monitored, our email is being monitored. And, of course, their excuse is, well, if you have nothing to hide… I don’t buy that. You know, that’s not good enough.

AMY GOODMAN: And for the people you sing for, which is people in this country and all over the world — you’re one of the most famous musicians in the world today — your sense of their feeling about our country, about your country, about the United States of America?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I’ve traveled around over the years; over the last several years, I’ve traveled around a lot, and I got a lot of different feedback from people around. And we’re not as loved as we think we are around the world. That’s for sure. I think most people realize that our problems are our government, not me and you individually, except that we can — must have some sort of responsibility, because they’re in there and they were elected, so we have to defend ourselves on those lines. But a lot of people realize that, you know, now that they’re in there, what are you going to do about it? So I say get them out.

AMY GOODMAN: You went to Ramstein, the military base in Germany, with Jessica Simpson, 2005?

WILLIE NELSON: Jessica Simpson, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What was that like?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, you know, we saw a lot of — saw a lot of wounded soldiers there. And it was a hospital, and so a lot of those folks came to the show. And it’s not a good feeling to know that these folks have been wounded beyond imagination, not only physically, but mentally, scarred. And there are so many young people that are going away, coming home with all those feelings about what happened, what they did, what they had to do. So I saw a lot of that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Willie Nelson. We’re going to go to break, another of the songs he played last night at Democracy Now!’s twelfth anniversary gala, as we celebrated grassroots global news. Willie Nelson.


AMY GOODMAN: You sang last night at the Democracy Now! gala “Peaceful Solutions.” Can you talk about it?

WILLIE NELSON: Yeah, this is a new song, the last few months. My daughter Amy and I were traveling to a concert about 3:00 in the morning, going to Coachella, the big concert in California, and it was on my birthday. And my daughter Amy said, “You know, I had a dream that you wrote a song called “Peaceful Solution,” and you were singing it on stage.” I said, “Well, you know, that’s interesting.” So, you know, I laid down, tried to go to sleep, and I couldn’t, so I got up and wrote the song.

And I put the song — recorded it just a cappella, just a little cheap recorder, put it on my website, willienelsonpri.com, Peace Research Institute. And I told the people on there that if you like this song, you record it. Use your band, your voice, your whatever. And since I put it on the website, over a hundred people have recorded this song, videoed it, recorded it, just sitting around with their family and done it. Some of the guys went into the studio. Some did really professional jobs. In fact, the University of Texas did two videos on “Peaceful Solution,” on that song. So it really took off. And, you know, naturally, I was proud that it did. So I’d be happy to sing a little bit of it for you.

AMY GOODMAN: Feel free.


    There is a peaceful solution called a peace revolution.
    Now let’s take back America.
    There was a dream, so believe it.
    Now get ready to receive it.
    And we’ll take back America.
    There’s a war, and we’re in it, but I know we can win it.
    And we’ll take back America.
    And when the war is over and we’ve won it,
    let’s remember how we done it, so we don’t have to do it again.
    There is a peaceful solution called a peace revolution.
    Now let’s take back America.
    When the war is over and we’ve won it,
    remember how we done it, so we don’t have to do it again.
    There is a peaceful solution called a peace revolution.
    Now let’s take back America.
    And now let’s take back America.
    Now let’s take back America.

AMY GOODMAN: “Peaceful Solution.” And you can go to your website at <a href=http://www.willienelsonpri.com and put your own music video up there of that song?

WILLIE NELSON: You sure can. You sure can, and we’ll put it on there, and we’ll — you can listen to it, play it. Just record it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Those words, “take back America,” one of the obviously fascinating things that’s happened in the last year or so, as this presidential race has heated up, is all these young people getting involved in politics and voting and seeing a sense that they can maybe do something about changing the country. Your message, if you had to give to young people today, from the experience that you’ve had as a musician and as a social activist in terms of what the potential that they have to do something about where our country is headed?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, somebody one time said you can — you know, one person can’t change the world, but one person carrying a message can change the world. And that’s what I think is going on now. I think a lot of young people are realizing that their voice is ready to be heard. They are really important, and they feel that importance, and they know that they have to do something. You know, when you see something wrong, you sit around, and you can say, “Well, I’m either going to do something,” or “I’m going to do nothing.” You have to make the decision. A lot of the kids out there are saying, “Wait a minute, we can do something.” And this election that’s going on now has really excited a lot of young people, and that’s one of the best things that’s happened to our country.

AMY GOODMAN: Is it true what they’re reporting, that you will be playing at the opening night of the Democratic convention in Denver?

WILLIE NELSON: That’s true. That’s what I hear.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re going to be doing it.


AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Wag the Dog, the 1997 movie, the movie starring Robert De Niro about a Washington spin doctor who distracts the electorate around a sex scandal by waging a war — what was it? — with Albania, with a Hollywood producer, Dustin Hoffman, constructs this fake war. And, well, you’re in it, and you’ve got the music in it. Talk about it, Wag the Dog.

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, I thought it was a great story, you know, and it was so appropriate for the times, and it’s still appropriate for these times. And that’s why, I guess, we’re still talking about Wag the Dog, because it’s still happening.

AMY GOODMAN: You have, over the years, used your music to reach so many people around the world. You have an enormous podium to spread a message. What do you feel is the most important message that has to get out right now?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I still believe there can be peace on earth, you know? I grew up hearing that, you know, that this is the big deal. We’re going to have peace on earth. What happened to it? You know, that’s my question. I believe there can be peace on earth, but I believe there has to be peacemakers. I believe we have to have a Department of Peace that’s just as strong as our Department of War. And these two, peace and war, have been fighting each other for eons. So I think it’s time peace won out.


That, of course, Department of Peace was always the emblematic — Dennis Kucinich was the one who was constantly raising it. Could you talk a little bit about your relationship with Dennis Kucinich and how you became so much a supporter of his?

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I liked his ideas. I liked him personally. I like the idea mainly that he was the only one who said, “Let’s get out of this war. Let’s don’t go on this war.” And he still said it, he’s still saying that. He’s still saying, “Come out of there.” So that’s one of the main reasons that I like Dennis. I supported him back when he ran for president in 2004, I guess it was, and wrote a song for his campaign. I was watching television one morning, me and my wife, and they were — back then, there was a lot of war going on on TV. That’s all I could see is bombing. And I told my wife, I said, “There’s a lot of mothers crying and babies dying this morning.” And she said, “You ought to go write that.” So I did. So I wrote this song called “What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth?” and gave the song to Dennis for his campaign. And we used it in fundraisers and things. So I still want to know what happened to peace on earth.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you want to play it? Do you feel like it?

WILLIE NELSON: Let me see if I can remember it.

    So many things going on in the world,
    babies dying,
    mothers crying.
    How much oil is one human life worth?
    And what happened to peace on earth?
    We believe everything that they tell us.
    They’re gonna kill us,
    so we gotta kill them first.
    But I remember a commandment,
    Thou shall not kill,
    and how much is that soldier’s life worth?
    And what happened to peace on earth?
    And the bewildered herd is still believing
    everything we’ve been told from our birth.
    Hell, they won’t lie to me,
    not on my own damn TV.
    But how much is a liar’s words worth?
    And what happened to peace on earth?

AMY GOODMAN: Willie Nelson, “What Happened to Peace on Earth?” How many kids do have? You mentioned Amy.


AMY GOODMAN: Six children. Do you have advice for parents?

WILLIE NELSON: Yeah, I think you have to know your kids. You have to make a point to know your kids, to know what they’re thinking, to know what they’re watching, to know what they’re drinking, you know, to know what they’re taking. And, yeah, parents have a huge obligation to know what their kids are doing. And I think that’s our job.


So many of your songs are love songs. Your advice to keeping a healthy and long-lasting relationship between men and women?

WILLIE NELSON: Do I have any advice? I’ve been married four times, so — so are you going to do what I do or what I tell you?

AMY GOODMAN: Between men and women, men and men, women and women. In fact, you wrote one — or you sang one of the songs right around Brokeback Mountain time about gay cowboys.

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other.” And there was another song I recorded, “I Ain’t Going Down on Brokeback Mountain.” There’s a lot of great music out there that you can’t sing everywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: But I didn’t mean to get in the way of Juan’s question.




AMY GOODMAN: On relationships, long-lasting or otherwise.

WILLIE NELSON: I’m not the guy to give advice. I had a father-in-law — ex-father-in-law, who — somebody asked him something one time, his advice, and he said, “Take my advice, and do what you want to.” So that may be the best advice I’ve ever heard.

AMY GOODMAN: OK, how about “Superman”? Like to play it?

WILLIE NELSON: Sure, yeah. You know, this song has a little story. A year or so ago, I had a carpal tunnel operation, and the doctor said, “I want you to go home and shut up for a while.” And so I did, but I wrote this song.

    Too many pain pills, too much pot,
    trying to be something that I’m not,
    Superman, Superman.
    Trying to do more than I can
    got a little out of hand.
    I ain’t Superman.
    Well, I blew my throat, and I blew my tour.
    I wound up sipping on soupe du jour.
    I wasn’t Superman.
    I wasn’t Superman.
    Trying to do more than I can
    got a little at hand.
    I ain’t Superman.
    The doctor said, “Son, it’s a crying shame,
    but you ain’t Clark Kent, and I ain’t Lois Lane.
    You ain’t Superman.
    You ain’t Superman.”
    Trying to do more than you can
    got a little at hand.
    I ain’t Superman.

There’s another verse on there, but I have to watch profanity. So I got to remember not to say those words.


The FCC is watching, yes. I’d like to ask you about one of your views or perspectives that’s raised a lot of controversy, obviously, your sense of — or your reaction to what happened on 9/11 and your questions that you have about the events of that terrible day.

WILLIE NELSON: Well, I have a lot of questions. I think a lot of people have a lot of questions. I think 85 or 90 percent of the people in this country say, “What?” I mean, a plane hit this building, and it fell kind of like that. And another plane hit that building, and it fell kind of like that. About the same time it fell, this one fell the same way. It looked like an implosion somewhere, you know? And then, all of a sudden, the third building fell, and no plane hit it. So, naturally, I’ve got questions.

AMY GOODMAN: If you met President Bush, what would you ask him?

WILLIE NELSON: How are things in Crawford? That’s about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Che Guevara, talking about what inspires a revolutionary, said love. You’re most famous for your song sung with Julio Iglesias, “For All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.” Can we get a few verses of that?

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, yeah, if I can remember the key I do it in.

    To all the girls I’ve loved before
    who’ve traveled in and out my door,
    I’m glad they came along,
    I dedicate this song
    to all the girls I’ve loved before.
    To all the girls who’ve shared my life
    who now are someone else’s wives,
    for helping me to grow,
    I owe and owe and owe and owe,
    to all the girls I’ve loved before.

AMY GOODMAN: Willie Nelson, thanks for being with us today.

WILLIE NELSON: My pleasure. Nice to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Music legend, Willie Nelson.


Thanks for being with us last night.

WILLIE NELSON: Oh, I enjoyed that. It was a good party.

AMY GOODMAN: Really amazing. And I want to thank all of the community of independent media that has made Democracy Now! possible over these twelve years. What an amazing way to begin the next twelve years, with Willie Nelson and the remarkable event we had. We want to thank Pacifica Radio. And when we went on television, the first to help us out there at the conventions of 2000 was Deep Dish TV. It was Deep Dish TV and their network of public access TV stations that we first broadcast on, so a big shout out to DeeDee Halleck and all that have made Deep Dish TV and independent media. And then public broadcasting radio and television, in general, you’re where it’s at, folks.

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