The Artist Willie Nelson Heralded as “The Greatest” Musician

Many people would dub Willie Nelson one of the greatest musicians ever. His legacy is mounting in the world of country music. However, even an artist of his caliber must glean inspiration from somewhere. For Nelson, his “greatest” artist is Leon Russell.

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Russell was a prolific pianist. His sprawling list of collaborations includes The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and more. Needless to say, he’s somewhat of a “Musician’s musician.” Nelson certainly thinks so.

“The greatest musician, singer, writer, and entertainer that I have ever seen or heard is Leon Russell,” Nelson wrote in his autobiography, Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road. That would be high praise from anyone, let alone a legend like Nelson.

Nelson went on to write about a transcendent Russell concert experience–one that was influential to his own performing style.

“There were thousands of people walking toward the venue through a cow pasture, carrying everything from beer coolers to sleeping bags,” Nelson continued in his book. “I remember he had the crowd in such a frenzy that at one moment he stopped and said, ‘Remember where you are right now, and remember that right now you would believe anything I would say. So be careful who you would let lead you to this place.’

Then he threw his cowboy hat into the audience, and the crowd went crazy, which is when I stole the idea of throwing hats into the audience.”

If you aren’t familiar with Russell’s music, it might be high time to check him out. If even Nelson cites him as one of the best musicians of all time, who are we to think otherwise? Check out a duet between Nelson and Russell, below.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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