Full Circle: The Story Behind the First and Only Duet Between Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, “Lay Me Down”

My spirit stood on solid ground / I’ll be at peace when they lay me down sings Loretta Lynn in “Lay Me Down” and its reflection on the passage of time and death. After Lynn’s take, Willie Nelson recounts childhood and then comes back around: When I was a child, I cried / Until my needs were satisfied.

Released on Lynn’s 43rd album Full Circle in 2016, “Lay Me Down” marked the duo’s first and only collaboration since Lynn performed at the inaugural Farm Aid in 1985.

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‘I’ll Be at Peace’

Though the two never collaborated until nearly six decades into their careers, “Lay Me Down,” written by Mark Marchetti, is a fitting, full circle of their friendship, lives, and careers, along with an acceptance of their mortality: I’ll be at peace when they lay me down. At the time they recorded the track Lynn was 83 and Nelson was 82.

I raised my head and set myself
In the eye of the storm, in the belly of a whale
My spirit stood on solid ground
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down

When I was a child, I cried
Until my needs were satisfied
My needs have grown up, pound for pound
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down

Just one year apart from one another in age, Lynn and Nelson arrived in Nashville around the same time in 1960 and performed together early on in their careers.

“When I first came to Nashville, we did some shows together,” said Lynn in 2016, “and I thought he was one of the most handsomest man I’d ever seen. He had this suit on, a business suit and his hair was brass—the color of brass—and his eyes was the same color. … He was a handsome guy. Well, he’s still handsome.”

[RELATED: 6 Songs You Didn’t Know Willie Nelson Wrote, Made Famous by Other Artists]

Nelson’s appearance on the track also came as a complete surprise to Lynn. “I didn’t even know he was on there, and I was listening to it, and here was Willie,” said Lynn in 2016.

Along with more reflections on the lessons learned, tears and broken dreams, and finding peace, throughout “Lay Me Down,” the lyrics get more spiritual, concentrating on one’s spirit when the time comes.

When they lay me down someday
My soul will rise, then fly away
This old world will turn around
I’ll be at peace when they lay me down

This life isn’t fair, it seems
It’s filled with tears and broken dreams
There are no tears where I am bound
And I’ll be at peace when they lay me down

In the music video, directed by David McClister, Nelson and Lynn are seen singing the song backstage at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, until they both meet on stage and perform to an empty audience.

[RELATED: 5 Loretta Lynn Songs That Were Banned]


In 2022, Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter Emmy Russell took the stage at the CMT Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Celebration of the Life and Music of Loretta Lynn with Lukas Nelson for a duet of “Lay Me Down.”

“She always stood in the corner and called me onstage,” recalled Russell of performing with her grandmother. “It’s the first time that she’s not here to look at me with her proud eyes,” she added of performing without Lynn. “It’s just special.”

Photo: Willie Nelson (l) by Pamela Springsteen; Loretta Lynn by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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