WILLIE NELSON SALUTED BY ALISON KRAUSS, JAMEY JOHNSON AND MORE
The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, named after songwriting team George and Ira Gershwin, celebrates a living performer and/or composer’s “lifetime achievement in promoting song to enhance cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations,” according to a statement posted on the Library of Congress website.
During the concert, Nelson's music was performed by a top-notch and diverse lineup (backed by a stellar house band led by Don Was and featuring three of Nashville's McCrary Sisters), a testament to his enduring legacy as a singer, songwriter and performer, and his sprawling musical influence. Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson delivered a heart-stopping rendition of the Nelson and Ray Charles duet "Seven Spanish Angels," and Rosanne Cash sang "Pancho and Lefty," the Townes Van Zandt song Nelson and Merle Haggard took to the top of the charts more than 30 years ago. Stellar performances from Leon Bridges, Raul Malo, Neil Young, Mexican singer Ana Gabriel (whose dramatic version of "I Never Cared for You" was sung in Spanish), Neil Young and Promise of the Real, Buckwheat Zydeco, Edie Brickell and inaugural Gershwin Prize recipient Paul Simon rounded out the 90-minute show, which was taped for later broadcast on PBS.
Nelson already recorded the Gershwins' "Someone to Watch Over Me" on his classic album "Stardust," but on Wednesday he revealed that he has finished recording an entire album of Gershwin songs. Called "Summertime," it is scheduled for release Jan. 15, the same day the tribute concert will premiere on PBS. Near the end of the evening, Nelson performed one of the songs from that forthcoming album, a playful duet of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" with Cyndi Lauper.
During one of the concert's most emotional moments, Nelson sang "Living in the Promiseland" with his sons Lukas and Micah. It was, he said, "one of the most appropriate songs" he could play, considering current events. The Nelsons' performance earned them one of the night's multiple standing ovations.
Nelson, who called the Gershwin Prize "one of the greatest things to happen in my life," closed the concert by inviting all of the evening's musical guests back onstage to perform "On the Road Again" as the audience clapped and sang along. At 82, Nelson has been making music for more than half a century, and as the performances in D.C. proved, his legacy will live on for decades to come.
— The Tennessean