From Farm Aid to a Pearl Jam Cover: 3 Memorable Performances and Collaborations by Willie Nelson and Son Lukas Nelson

Lukas Nelson grew up like a gypsy. He started learning guitar by 11 and was already stepping on stage soon after and on the road with his father Willie Nelson around 14. “Dad used to have my brother [Micah] and I both on stage,” said Lukas, “even when we were little tykes playing percussion.”

Along with Lukas’ two collaborative albums with Neil Young, co-writing several tracks for Bradley Cooper’s 2018 remake of A Star is Born and making music with his band Promise of the Real, his work with his father also spans two albums—Heroes (2012), which features three tracks written or co-written by Lukas, and Willie and the Boys: Willie’s Stash, Vol. 2 from 2017.

“He was very timeless in his way of writing,” said Lukas of his father’s songwriting in 2023. “That type of writing is … there’s an authority to it. It sounds more like an ancient text than it does a song.”

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Willie Nelson (l) is joined by his son Lukas Nelson during the First Annual 2011 Rapids Jam Music Festival at the Carolina Crossroads Outdoor Amphitheater on June 16, 2011, in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Reciting lyrics from Willie’s 1966 song “I Never Cared For You,” Lukas added, “‘Your heart has been forewarned, all men will lie to you. Your mind cannot conceive.’ It sounds like if she came stumbling into a cave, she could read it chiseled in the walls, from thousands of years ago,” added Lukas. “Really, all those lines could fit. That song could be sung in ancient Greek times as well as it could be sung to in today’s world. That type of imagery is, I think, on par with Homer.”

[RELATED: Lukas Nelson Covers Tom Petty, Reunites with Emily King for Intimate Show Supporting Mental Health, Maui Efforts]

For most of his life, Lukas has been there alongside his father with the Promise of the Real, the Family band, and other performances. Here’s a look at three of the father and son’s collaborations worth a listen.

1. “Just Breathe” (2012)

Written by Eddie Vedder; originally released by Pearl Jam

On Willie Nelson’s 2012 album Heroes, Lukas appears on 10 of the 14 tracks and wrote and co-wrote three songs. Along with special guests Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Snoop Dogg, Ray Price, Jamey Johnson, and Billy Joe Shaver, Heroes, which included a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” also features a Lukas-and-Willie rendition of Pearl Jam‘s Backspacer single “Just Breathe” from 2009. The duo has performed the song together everywhere from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and several Farm Aids, and more throughout the years.

2. “(Forget About) Georgia,” Farm Aid (2021)

Written by Lukas Nelson; originally released by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real

In 2018 Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real released the five-track EP Forget About Georgia, which featured two previously unreleased tracks, “Start To Go” and “Giving You Away,” a cover of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory classic “Life On Mars,” and the heartfelt title track.

Written by Lukas, “(Forget About) Georgia” was not a made-up story but one pulled from his real-life experience. “I met this girl named Georgia in San Francisco,” said Lukas of the song. “I fell in love with her and we were never really together, but it was kind of this romantic back-and-forth for a while. It was a heartbreak and I learned a lot and I grew a lot from this relationship.”

Following its release, Lukas performed the song with his father, who is mentioned in the lyrics, several times during Farm Aid singing For each night I stand with my father playing our music / We cry out her name and her memory under the lights.

3. “Texas Flood,” Farm Aid (2022)

Written by Larry David and Joseph Scott; originally released by Larry David

When Willie and Lukas performed “Texas Flood” at Farm Aid in 2022 at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, North Carolina, it wasn’t their first go at the song together. Willie and the Family have been performing this one since the early 2000s.

Written by Larry David and Joseph Scott and released by David in 1958, the late guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan later made “Texas Flood a regular part of his live repertoire long before Nelson released his cover on the 2000 album Milk Cow Blues.

Photo: Maury Phillips/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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