Librarian of Congress James Billington announces Willie Nelson is the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
With a career that spans six decades, Nelson’s music pushes genre boundaries and his lyrics give voice to America’s heartland. He put his imprint forever on country music and introduced it to new audiences by expanding music’s avenues in the ‘70s to create “outlaw country.” He has continually broadened his musical language, crossing into jazz, blues, folk, rock and Latin styles. A guitar virtuoso with a unique voice, Nelson is an artist whose work continues to inspire new musicians of diverse genres.
Nelson will receive the prize in Washington, D.C., in November and be feted with a series of events. The prize honors a living music artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting song to enhance cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King and Billy Joel.
“Willie Nelson is a musical explorer, redrawing the boundaries of country music throughout his career,” Billington said. “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.”
“It is an honor to be the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize. I appreciate it greatly,” Nelson said.
With 200-plus recordings, this iconic Texan is the creative genius behind the historic albums “Shotgun Willie,” “Red Headed Stranger” and “Stardust.” He is also the songwriter of many country-music standards, including “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.”
The Library of Congress 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.