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Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  441 ratings  ·  61 reviews
From his first performance at age four, Willie Nelson was driven to make music and live life on his own terms. But though he is a songwriter of exceptional depth - "Crazy" was one of his early classics - Willie only found success after abandoning Nashville and moving to Austin, Texas.

Red Headed Stranger made country cool to a new generation of fans. Wanted: The Outlaws be
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published April 21st 2008 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  441 ratings  ·  61 reviews

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Jan 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Finished. Finally. I wanted to love this book because I love Willie, and there were a number of gems of stories in this 500-pager. But the writing got in the way of my utter enjoyment. I can only describe it as disheveled. Ostensibly written chronologically, the stories jumped around in time. Characters would appear, disappear, and reappear suddenly with completely changed circumstances (divorced several times, dead, etc.). Lots of minute detail put into the less-than-interesting story lines (lo ...more
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: country-music, music
The author has certainly done his research on this comprehensive Willie Nelson biography. 498 pages not counting notes or index. This is not only a bio of one man but an extensive documentation of the Texas music scene dating back to the 1940's to the present. There are a lot of behind the scenes looks at the music business and a look at the man who did his own thing and didn't let others tell him what to do or how to do it.
Val Marquart
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
So far I'm loving this book because I learned a lot about this music legends childhood/teen years that I never knew. As he grows into his craft, though, the stories are pretty much what you would expect from The Red Headed Stranger, but they're still interesting stories.

I'm still not very far into the book. If you're a fan of this man, it's a great read. However, my knowledge of some of the country music artists he worked with (especially in the very early years) is not very proficient. In that
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography, musicians
Mr. Patoski clearly set out to write the definitive biography of Willie Nelson and while he offers an obviously well researched account with extensive interviews of both his subject and many family, friends and colleagues, I found his efforts only partially successful.

This lengthy book offers a broad look at Nelson and his career but there is little depth. He starts out fairly well, recounting the Nelson family's origins and Willie's childhood but offers decreasing context as Willie grows to ad
Apr 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have loved Willie for years. A concert in Santa Clara in the 70s, where Terry sneaked me backstage afterward and I wound up kissing Willie, is a high point in my music-appreciation life. And yes, this book is a doorstop, with its extensive discography and loooooong sections about Willie's grandparents and parents...grands being important as his birth parents just flaked on him.

Interesting, confirmed many thoughts, answered many questions. Made me want to listen to some "Blue Eyes Crying in the
Very detailed account of Willie Nelson life. Has some very interesting early history about some areas he lived in before he was famous and in his beginnings of becoming famous.
If you are a Willie Nelson fan then this is a must read.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
Would only recommend to the most hardcore Willie Nelson or country music fans. I don't know why I decided to finish this book. It must be said that Willie Nelson's life was relatively unremarkable. Despite this, the author is providing an extremely detailed account of every single Nelson's performance, album and person in Nelson's life. Way too detailed and boring for me.
Kyle Magin
May 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This book is deep and dense on Willie Nelson. I enjoyed some of the vignettes and anecdotes--Patoski did the work here. But, I got bogged down in reading the name of every session artist who ever cut a track with Willie and every highway he ever drove on. Would recommend this to a Willie fanatic.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great. The guy doing the audio sounds a lot like Willie Nelson.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Love Willie!
Apr 12, 2020 rated it liked it
The book was good, but I had a hard time staying focused while reading it.
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read for people, like me, who are Willie Nelson obsessed.
Perryville Library
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, john, music
"I want the people around me to be happy, but I look at life as a roller coaster. When I'm up, I'm up. And when I'm down, I'm down. And I hope when it's all over, the money runs out just about the same time that I'm through with my life. Let's not plan. It's a lot more fun if we don't."

As the above words can attest, Willie Nelson’s first 75 years have been quite a ride. From playing for free in ramshackle dives all over Texas just to gain some exposure, to being one of the first musicians to pro
George Bradford
Mar 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing story. The writing is not great (and that's why I'm only giving this book 4 stars). But the story is incredible.

Anyone interested in the history of Texas Music or the history of Folk Music in the United States during the 20th Century will find this book informative. The book is also a treasure trove of 20th century Texas history and the country music record industry.

At the center of it all is Willie Nelson. A man whose glorious flaws are exceeded by only his and limitless tale
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography

So I received the new biography on Willie Nelson in the mail. I did not know what to do, I like Willie but I tend to dislike celebrity bios, they are either fawning hagiographies or they are Kitty Kelly yellow journalist trash. Few books manage to hit in between, yet Willie Nelson: An Epic Life is one that hits the mark.
As I said earlier, I picked the book up with trepidation but after the first few pages I was hooked. I am not through yet, but so far the ride is pret
Jul 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, biography
Willie Nelson must be one of the most frustrating figures in musical history to write about. The man comes across as a bodhisattva. Even with his drinking and cheating ways, everyone who knows him, from ex-wives to the IRS falls for his quiet charm. There are a few pages right at the end of this doorstop where various members of Willie's extended musical family speak in reverent tones about the calming influence and sense of goodwill that the man radiates.

So yeah, this is a biography without te
Jun 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was excellent. I especially loved the sections about willie's parents and grandparents and the early, struggling, years. This was the period that I knew least about. Patoski also does an excellent job evoking the austin of the early to mid 1970s. Great sourcing at the end of the book--i really appreciate it when authors of non-academic, non-fiction and biographies include their sourcing. Finally, there is a good list of Patoski's recommendations to willie's recorded work, whi ...more
Jul 07, 2008 rated it liked it
This tome is epic in length, too. It is a very thorough biography starting with Willie's first song lyrics at age 5. He began as quite the prodigy and, of course, continues making his magic now. The book follows every part of Willie's life and gives a microscopic view of life as a songwriter as well as life growing up in the rural farm life of early 20th C. Texas. If you are familiar with Austin from the '60's until now, it is a great trip down musical memory lane and the wild characters of thos ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
A monster of a book to read. At times, honestly, a little tedious. There are spots where it seems more a recitation of history than a biography. "Willie recorded such and such, and .......was the band, and ......was the producer, followed by a show at ...... with the behind him"

You could fill in blanks there, put it all in an Appendix, and cut the size of the book by 100 pages.

Aside from that, a really well researched and fascinating book about a true American Icon. Stories about his yo
Colleen Reynolds
Feb 16, 2009 rated it liked it
It is really interesting to learn about Willie. By reading this book, I'm torn between wanting to meet him because he is such a loyal friend and giving person and not allowing him to be an example for my children because he is so into drugs. He's definitely an enigma. I would really like this book much more if it didn't get so mired down in the details. Too many writers, too many singers, too many songs to be able to keep up. I guess the author needed to do that to a point in order to establish ...more
Gina P
Apr 20, 2008 rated it liked it
While not exceptionally well-written, this book takes the reader on the tremendous journey that is Willie Nelson's life. At 75 years old, Willie Nelson has more than a few amusing stories to share. Not only did I gain a deep appreciation for the kindness and generosity behind the man (although don't get me started on his family life/lives), but I also learned about the musicians who influenced and played alongside him. I also learned a great deal about the history of music in Austin. A good read ...more
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Being a Willie Nelson fan since I was young, I am always interested in any book about the legend. I found this book to be very interesting. It shares not only alot about Willie's professional life but alot about the trials he has went through in his personal life. From his troubles with the IRS to the untimley death of his son he has definatley lived a roller coaster life. I especially enjoyed the tales from his childhood in Abbott, Tx., and his rise to the outlaw leg ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it liked it
I never read biographies. I'm more of a memoir reader. I was bogged down at first by all the dates and names in the beginning. It took a while for the book to flow for me. I probably started enjoying reading this book when the 1970's started. Willie seems like such a cool person. I'm glad the writer didn't make him out to be a saint. He didn't get where he is by following the rules. I plan on buying some his music.
Dan Oko
Mar 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Music fans, Texans
This was really good. The book is now out. It's a rip-roaring tale of how Willie became Willie, and was timed to come out for his 75th birthday which happens to be this week. I profiled the author Joe Nick Patoski for the Austin Chronicle. That article is here Last of a Breed ...more
May 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Hard to fit 75 years of life into one 500 page book. Hits on all of the highs and lows. Best section was the chapters on the Austin scene of the 70's and the Cosmic Cowboy movement that Willie originated. A scene that still defines Austin to this day. Willie is without a doubt one of the greatest American icons still alive today!
Jun 05, 2008 added it
I was disappointed in this book. It's well researched, but doesn't have enough about WILLIE the person. If you want to know who he met when and who he played with where, you might like it. If, like me, you want to understand how he kept marrying the "other woman" he left his wife for, there isn't enough about that. Or his kids, really.
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Another hard livin' Texan - 4 times married, pothead, his first wife smacked him in the head with a whiskey bottle, he got in a gunfight with his son-in-law, wrote Patsy Cline's seminal hit "Crazy", hung with Johnny Cash, Billie Joe Shaver and thousands of others. The IRS cried when they settled his tax problems. Like Keith Richards, if it weren't all true, it would be impossible to believe.
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was really excited about this book, but just couldn't get into it. I found the writing style very stale and sections of the book just laundry lists of name dropping. A shame, there are some interesting stories. An overwhelming meh.
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love Willie's music so I wanted to read this. It was a labor of love as it was very long and included everything he ever did! I did learn alot about his life and about the songs he wrote so I am glad I read it.
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
A very detailed book about Willie Nelson. If there is something you wanted to know about him, this book should talk about it. Almost 500 pages of information on the man. It did seem like a chore to read at points.
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