4 Timeless Willie Nelson Hits Written by Other People

Willie Nelson is an icon, known far and wide for many things. However, the fact of the matter is that he wouldn’t be who he is today without the music that he has been making for decades. The Texas native got his start in Nashville as a songwriter, penning songs like Faron Young’s “Hello Walls” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Wilson also penned several of his own hits and fan favorites.

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Because Nelson is so lauded for his songwriting, many fans may be surprised to learn that he didn’t write some of his biggest hits. That just means that Nelson doesn’t just know how to write great country songs, he also knows a hit when he hears one. Sometimes, the ability to pick great songs is just as important as the ability to write them. Here are four timeless tracks that prove that the Red-Headed Stranger knows how to pick ‘em.

[RELATED: 3 Songs Willie Nelson Contributed to The Highwaymen During the Supergroup’s 10-Year Span]

“Willingly” with Shirley Collie—Willie Nelson’s First Hit Single

Willie Nelson’s career as a performer got off to a slow start. He released five singles that failed to chart between 1957 and 1962. Then, in March 1962, he released “Willingly,” a duet with Shirley Collie, an artist he would marry the next year.

Penned by the legendary songwriter Hank Cochran, “Willingly” peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot Country & Western Sides chart, giving Nelson his first charting single and his first hit.

“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”—Willie’s First No. 1  

Nelson released “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” as a single from his game-changing album Red-Headed Stranger in 1975. The song was lauded by critics and went to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart, giving him his first No. 1 single. It also peaked at No. 21 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, his first entry on the chart.

Written by Fred Rose, one-half of the iconic publishing company Acuff-Rose Music, the song has been recorded by several artists. Notably, Elton Britt recorded the original version in 1946. The next year, Roy Acuff—a country legend and the other half of the aforementioned publishing company—recorded his version of the song.

“Always on My Mind”—A Crossover Hit for Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson released “Always on My Mind” as the lead single and title track from his 1982 album. The song went to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart and stayed there for two weeks. It was also No. 1 on the publication’s year-end Hot Country Singles chart. Additionally, it peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100 survey, his highest charting single on the all-genre chart to date.

Wayne Carson, Johnny Christopher, and Mark James co-wrote “Always on My Mind.” Brenda Lee was the first to record the song but Gwen McCrae was the first to release it in 1972. Later that year, Elvis Presley released his version and had a minor hit. His version peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard country chart.

“Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning”—A No. 2 Hit

Written by Gary P. Nunn and Donna Farar, Willie Nelson released “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” as the third single from Always on My Mind. The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard country charts.

Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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