Book Review: Willie Nelson, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road

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Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road
Willie Nelson
Rating: 3.5 stars

With a twinkle in his eyes, a laugh in his belly, a sagacious nod, and a deep love for life, Nelson takes us for a rollicking ride along the highways and byways of his long life and career in this rambunctious, hilarious, reflective, and loving memoir. With his rapscallion smile, Nelson regales us with tales of life on the road, his life in Maui, his early years in Texas—he was smoking and drinking by the time he was six—his love of dominoes—he plays with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson in Maui—and golf, his deep and abiding love for his family, and his deep respect and enduring admiration for the songwriters and musicians with whom he has performed and who have influenced him, from Ray Price and Leon Russell to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

Weaving meditations on topics ranging from calf roping, gun control, raising hogs, and Farm Aid with lyrics from new and classic songs, Nelson creates a colorful patchwork quilt that covers every aspect of his life and career. His family members and friends also weave their own warm and fond recollections of their father, husband, band leader, and his son, Micah, provides illustrations for the book. His son, Lukas, for instance, feels “blessed to have been born at this more mature point in [Willie’s] life. He seems to have a wise river to float down at his age, and he seems to be speaking to him and he seems to be listening.”

Never at a loss for words, Nelson retells numerous jokes he’s told and retold on the road, and he freely dispenses his hard-earned and sparkling wisdom to all willing to hear.

On guns: “Now there are guns that can fire a hundred shots in less than a minute…Those kinds of weapons were made only to kill people. I don’t know any serious hunter who would use that kind of firepower to hunt… A handgun, a shotgun, and a deer rifle are all we really need.”

On marijuana: “We should leave marijuana users alone but tax them. It’s already been proven that taxing and regulating marijuana makers makes more sense than sending young people to prison for smoking a God-given herb never proven to be fatal to anybody.”

On songwriting: “I will never say anything to discourage a songwriter; but if you are a real songwriter, nothing I could say would discourage you, anyhow. If my opinion could change your mind about being a songwriter, then you weren’t really a songwriter to begin with and I would have done you a favor by making you look for a different career.”

On God: “If we admit that we are children of God, we can go a long way in fixing what’s wrong. Maybe that is our reason to be here, end of story.”

With his tongue in cheek, Nelson reminds us the danger of reading his memoir: “You shouldn’t be reading this BS, it could ruin you for all time to come. You could end up a social outcast like me, an outlaw!”

Hop on Willie’s tour bus for a wild, wonderful party where you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll emerge, like Willie, as an outlaw with a heart and soul wide open to the wonders of the world around you.

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