Perryville Library's Reviews > Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

Willie Nelson by Joe Nick Patoski
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's review
Jan 05, 2009

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bookshelves: john, nonfiction, music
Read in January, 2007

"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 promote Biodiesel, and everything in between, The Red-Headed Stranger has careened through life like a man who can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend. In this biography, An Epic Life: Willie Nelson, author Joe Nick Patoski thoroughly immerses readers in the depths of what it’s been like to be on the ride that is Willie Nelson.

Joe Nick Patoski interviewed more than 100 different people and spent 1000’s of hours assembling all of the facts and stories used in this work. The author has been covering Willie Nelson since 1973, and readers of An Epic Life: Willie Nelson will enjoy almost 550 pages of Patoski’s extensive research. The novel begins with a history of Willie’s great grandparents, and ends with stories of Willie’s famous 4th of July picnics, which serve as benefit concerts for a variety of causes. In between, Patoski provides an abundance of extremely detailed accounts of the places, people, and events that surrounded Willie’s long road to stardom and the myriad of sharp turns that threatened to derail it.

In part, this is what sets this biography apart from others previously penned about the country music star- Patoski’s details create a near real-life experience for the reader, and it genuinely feels as though we get to experience each story as if we were there with Willie, pickin’ guitar and playin’ until morning. Very few authors could provide that intimacy, and maybe it’s because Patoski is a Texas boy himself that he is able to get us so close to actions and events that in some cases happened over 40 years ago. The book ends with a quote from Willie that ends with the line “I think I’ve about covered it.” I believe Joe Nick Patoski has also indeed “covered it”, with “it” being Willie Nelson, about as well as anyone ever will.

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