The Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is one of the most honorable awards in the world for musicians and songwriters. And today the Librarian of Congress (yes, that’s an actual position) James Hadley Billington (yes, that’s his actual name) announced that one of the planet’s biggest stoners will receive the top honor this year.
This year’s Gershwin Prize winner, joining the ranks of previous winners Paul Simon and Carole King: Country music legend Willie Nelson, who will be feted in Washington D.C. via a series of events in November.
“It is an honor to be the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize,” Nelson said in a release. “I appreciate it greatly.”
Nelson is best known for his music, but his second-most recognizable claim to fame is his connection to cannabis. From our recent High Style Icon profile of Nelson:
In a recent Rolling Stone profile, Patrick Doyle dubbed him “one of America’s greatest songwriters, a hero from Texas to San Francisco, a hippie’s hippie and a redneck’s redneck.” We will also add that he’s a stoner’s stoner.
The music legend and fearless cannabis crusader just marked his 82nd birthday — each one of those years recounted in his new memoir “It’s a Long Story: My Life.” The New York Post reveals from the book: “I owe marijuana a lot,” he writes. “I think I can fairly make the claim that marijuana — in the place of booze, cocaine and tobacco — has contributed to my longevity.”
Long before marijuana was respected — and legal — Nelson was smoking it. He was loud, proud and rebellious. As a proponent of legalization from the beginning, he is a trailblazing activist serving on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and creating Willie Nelson’s Tea Pot Party under the motto “Tax it, regulate it and legalize it!” after his fourth arrest for marijuana possession in 2010.
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song “honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.”
Nelson is joining esteemed company, including Simon, King, Stevie Wonder, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Paul McCartney and Billy Joel.
Billington had this to say about this year’s recipient: “Willie Nelson is a musical explorer, redrawing the boundaries of country music throughout his career. A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots. His achievements as a songwriter and performer are legendary. Like America itself, he has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs. He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”