3 of the Most Controversial Willie Nelson Songs

Willie Nelson isn’t exactly known for stirring controversy. How could he? He’s basically country music’s lovable weed-smoking grandpa who tends to focus on making good music over gossipy drama. However, Willie Nelson has penned a few controversial songs through the years, even if the “controversy” is lukewarm at best. Let’s take a look at three Willie Nelson songs that at some point have been considered controversial.

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1. “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other”

Well, we knew this one was coming. “Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other” was originally penned by Ned Sublette in the 1980s, but it was Nelson’s cover of the song in 2006 that stirred a bit of drama. 

To put it simply, it’s a song about the often taboo nature of homosexuality in cowboy culture. And in a music genre that usually leans right, some fans weren’t happy with the playful and un-serious song about gay cowboys. Little did Nelson know that the song would become quite legendary among LGBTQ+ country music fans.

2. “Shotgun Willie”

This 1973 song has occasionally been viewed the wrong way, especially when it comes to the mention of the KKK. In the song, Nelson mentions John T. Floores and the fact that he worked for the Ku Klux Klan. Floores ran the John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, which is still one of Nelson’s favorite venues. However, the connection between Nelson and someone who worked for the KKK stirred a bit of controversy.

That being said, Nelson has said that the song was akin to “clearing” his “throat” and was a nonsensical song he wrote on a piece of toilet paper. Just as well, the lyrics paint a mocking picture of Floores rather than a positive one, as Nelson croons about the fact that Floores sells white sheets to the KKK to make a quick buck.

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3. “Vote ‘Em Out”

This 2018 song is one of Nelson’s most politically-charged tracks to date. So, naturally, it would garner at least a bit of controversy. “Vote ‘Em Out” is mostly politically neutral in nature and simply encourages those who were unhappy at the time with their government to use their constitutional right to vote. Nelson goes as far as to describe the ballot box as “the biggest gun we’ve got.” Still, the song was released during a very heated political climate and ruffled a few feathers.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer

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