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'Red Headed Stranger' — The Story behind Willie Nelson's Powerful 18th Album

Bettina Dizon
Jun 28, 2020
05:00 A.M.
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Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger" grew to be an all-time favorite in country music with its unique ability to tell a story.

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"Red Headed Stranger's" unconventional art cemented Willie Nelson's legacy, making him one of country music's recognized legends today. Here's a look at his life.

EARLY YEARS

Nelson grew up with his grandparents in Texas following his parents' divorce. His childhood was made up of playing the guitar, and everything was all about the music since then.

Willie Nelson poses for a portrait wearing a cowboy hat in circa 1973. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Nelson poses for a portrait wearing a cowboy hat in circa 1973. | Source: Getty Images

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Following a musically inclined childhood, Nelson signed a $25,000 contract with Atlantic in Nashville, bringing him success with the albums "Shotgun Willie" and "Phases and Stages."

With Atlantic records' eventual decision to ditch country music, Nelson signed with Columbia records. Then-president Bruce Lundvall granted Nelson the rights to his musical creations.

Through the years, Nelson became a family man and is loyal to his fourth wife, whom he lives with in Austin, Texas.

Former President Jimmy Carter with Former First Lady Rosalynn join Willie Nelson and perform at The Omni Coliseum in Atlanta Georgia. December 12, 1982. | Source: Getty Images

Former President Jimmy Carter with Former First Lady Rosalynn join Willie Nelson and perform at The Omni Coliseum in Atlanta Georgia. December 12, 1982. | Source: Getty Images

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Apart from these events, Nelson was not always the rock and roll legend we know him today as he spent quite some time as a disc jockey in a kids' radio show.

"RED HEADED STRANGER"

In 1975, Nelson released an all-time great masterpiece in "Red Headed Stranger." With the album taking both country lovers and mainstream audiences by storm, it went platinum, ranking in the 100s of Rolling Stone's all-time list of greatest albums.

Willie Nelson performs live at The Circle Star Theatre in 1974 in Palo Alto, California. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Nelson performs live at The Circle Star Theatre in 1974 in Palo Alto, California. | Source: Getty Images

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This album was unique in that it told a story through every track, with one of the apparent giveaways being the track's constant transition between the "stranger," and a narrator.

The tracks tackle the stranger's love for his wife, and their eventual separation due to the latter's affair and betrayal.

Willie Nelson Singing on "Saturday Night Live." | Source: Getty Images

Willie Nelson Singing on "Saturday Night Live." | Source: Getty Images

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Eventually, the stranger finds himself in total despair from the fallout of their relationship. This continues onto the following songs, where he crosses paths once again with his ex-wife.

NELSON'S PERSONAL LIFE

Nelson was married four times and had eight children. In an interview, he revealed why he called his three ex-wives additional wives.

Willie Nelson, circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

Willie Nelson, circa 1970. | Source: Getty Images

"Along the way, you pick up wives and kids, and you are responsible for them," he said. "You don't discard them. There is no such thing as ex-wives, only additional wives."

Through the years, Nelson became a family man and is loyal to his fourth wife, whom he lives with in Austin, Texas.

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