Smithsonian Collections

Willie Nelson

Image for Willie Nelson
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
Exhibition Label
Willie Nelson has ranged more widely than any country singer of his generation. While he got his start writing songs for others—including "Crazy" (1961), first popularized by Patsy Cline—he broke from the string-dominated Nashville sound with the release of his breakthrough album Red Headed Stranger in 1975. Jazz, blues, pop, swing, and folk all became a part of the "outlaw" country music that he and others popularized during this period. Wearing long hair, a red bandana, and denim and singing in a distinctive weathered voice, Nelson is a gentle and unassuming presence on stage. Yet his tenderness is rooted in a flinty toughness built on irreverence toward authority. This independent streak reveals itself both in his songs and in his work as the founder of the Farm Aid concert series, as a champion of biodiesel fuel, and as a tireless advocate for the legalization of marijuana.
Michael O'Brien, born 27 Jun 1950
Willie Nelson, born 30 Apr 1933
1989 (printed 2009)
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Bill and Sally Wittliff
Chromogenic print
Image: 38.1 x 38.1cm (15 x 15")
Sheet: 55.9 x 43.1cm (22 x 16 15/16")
Mat: 71.1 x 55.9cm (28 x 22")
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Object number
Willie Nelson: Male
Willie Nelson: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician
Willie Nelson: Performing Arts\Performer\Musician\Songwriter
United States\Texas\Burnet\Spicewood
Restrictions & Rights
© Michael O'Brien