Shotgun Willie: See Pictures of Willie Nelson Through the Years
Willie Nelson has had the most amazing life, both onstage and off.
Born Willie Hugh Nelson in Abbott, Texas in 1933, during the Great Depression, Nelson wrote his first song at the age of 7 and joined his first band at 10. He served in the Air Force and worked as a disc jockey before moving to Nashville, where he became an in-demand songwriter.
Nelson wrote a number of classics that were made famous by other artists, including "Funny How Time Slips Away," Hello Walls," "Pretty Paper" and "Crazy." His early solo albums saw reasonable success, but after he moved to Austin, grew his hair and re-invented himself as a self-styled country "outlaw," he became one of the leaders of a new Outlaw Country movement in the 1970s.
Subsequent albums like Shotgun Willie and Red Headed Stranger were commercial and critical smashes, launching him as a country superstar. He's gone on to release a long string of respected albums that encompass country, folk, reggae, blues, jazz and more.
Nelson is one of the most-beloved stars in country music due to his music, humble personality and his vast charity work -- especially his support of American farmers via Farm Aid, which he co-founded. His colorful personal life has also served as tabloid fodder over the years, but that hasn't dimmed the fans' love for him one bit. Celebrate the country icon's life and times in the career-spanning gallery above.
Country Stars Wish Willie Nelson a Happy Birthday