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Willie Nelson: The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize

Willie Nelson receiving The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Courtesy of Scott Henrichsen
Willie Nelson receiving The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.

Airs Friday, July 12, 2019 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2

"Willie Nelson: The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize," was taped on Nov. 18, 2015 at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

The program features performances by Nelson, as well as Edie Brickell, Leon Bridges, Rosanne Cash, Ana Gabriel, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Neil Young, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Buckwheat Zydeco and past Gershwin Prize honoree Paul Simon — with Don Was as music director.

During the event, Nelson was presented the Gershwin Prize by David Mao, Acting Librarian of Congress, and a delegation of Members of Congress.


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 1970s 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.

With 200-plus recordings, Nelson is the creative genius behind the historic albums "Shotgun Willie," "Red Headed Stranger" and "Stardust."

An iconic Texan, he is also the songwriter of many country-music standards, including “Crazy,” “Hello Walls” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

Nelson has earned numerous awards as a musician and earned extensive credentials as an author, actor and activist. He continues to thrive as a relevant and progressive musical and cultural force.


He released a collaboration with Merle Haggard, "Django and Jimmie," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Album chart and in the Top 10 (No. 7) on the Billboard 200 Bestselling Albums chart.

Nelson has delivered nine other new releases, one of which received a GRAMMY Award nomination; released a New York Times best seller; graced the cover of Rolling Stone magazine; headlined Farm Aid — an event he co-founded in 1985 — and received his 5th-degree black belt in Gongkwon Yusul.

In 2013, Nelson’s albums included "Let’s Face The Music and Dance," an album of pop-country repertoire classics performed with patented ease by Nelson and Family — his long-time touring and recording ensemble — and "To All The Girls…," which features 18 duets with music’s top female singers.

In 2014, he released "Band of Brothers," a 14-track studio album of new recordings that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country album chart and at No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart.

Quotes About Willie Nelson

“Willie Nelson has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American music,” said Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. “We are thrilled to honor and recognize his legacy with this special performance, which is part of PBS’ and member stations' commitment to offering the best of American arts and culture to our audiences.”

“Willie Nelson has redrawn the boundaries of country music throughout his storied career,” said David Mao, Acting Librarian of Congress. “The sincerity, longevity and diversity of his appeal perfectly reflect the spirit of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Since the Library began presenting the prize, PBS has brought this celebration of creativity directly and more broadly to the American people. We’re pleased that people across the country will be able to join in the recognition of this great artist and songwriter.”

Watch On Your Schedule:

This full episode is available to stream on demand.

Join The Conversation:

Willie Nelson is on Facebook, and you can follow @willienelson on Twitter.


THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS GERSHWIN PRIZE FOR POPULAR SONG has been produced by WETA for PBS since 2007, with the support of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.