A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post about Country Music. In that post, I touched upon my recent fondness for the genre even though I was born and raised in NYC. So when I saw Willie Nelson had written an autobiography, I decided to pick it up. Here is my review of the book “It’s a Long Story” by Willie Nelson.
Instead of reading it on my phone or iPad, I decided to purchase a physical copy. To set the mood while reading the book, I listened to my country music playlist on the stereo. This book starts off like any normal biography, with Willie’s childhood. Like many other biographies I read, Willie grew up poor and during the Great Depression. He and his sister were raised by his grandparents and were constantly surrounded by music. After his grandfather passed, Willie wanted to help his grandmother so he started earning money through his guitar playing. At age nineteen, after being discharged from the Air Force he married his first wife. I consider Willie an entrepreneur even during his early years because he hustled. He barely made any money from his guitar playing, so he took up odd jobs here and there and constantly traveled throughout the state playing at bars. When his income hit a plateau (which it often did) he moved to another city or state. He would often find work as a disc jockey but they were always temporary.
I could write a couple of more paragraphs about all his failures but I want to jump forward to the 1960s. At 28 years old, Willie finally achieved some success but not the way you’re thinking. He had just moved to Memphis and was making money via songwriting. In 1961 he wrote the song Crazy and when Patsy Cline recorded it reached number two in the country charts. He finally had some real money coming in and he did what most people do, he wasted it. Out of money and recently divorced, Willie decided to get married and live on his farm. This lasted for a couple of months because the road was calling and he started touring again. Through the sixties, he produced records that didn’t sell and continued to live off the profit of his tours and royalties from his songwriting. He wouldn’t see any real record sales until 1973 when he was 40yrs old. The only reason he saw a big bump in record sales was his contract with Atlantic Records. He had creative control and he was able to produce music that he wanted. After seeing success with Atlantic Records, they closed down their country division and Willie had to negotiate with Columbia Records. Fortunately for Willie and his career, he was able to keep the creative control in his contract. In 1976 he released the first platinum country album, life was looking good until the following year. The IRS came knocking and just like with Kevin Hart, the person handling his money screwed him over. Willie has a positive mind and he decided to fight the IRS (despite being advised not to). He actually won and was able to settle his tax debt via a deal that gave them the profits from his next couple of albums. After that Willie became the icon we all know today. Releasing hit after hit, buying a golf course and music studio.
I only wanted to focus on his early part of his career because of his grind. Willie worked his ass off and never stopped no matter how bad things got. His home life was bad but he had a dream, a vision and nothing would stop him. He constantly wrote songs no matter where he was. In the book, he talks about driving home at four in the morning after playing a gig and pulling over to write. He wrote when a song came to him and when he was forced to write in an office he came out with a mundane song that became a hit, Hello Walls. Reading about him moving constantly to find opportunity reminded me of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Casey Neistat, starting new in an unfamiliar place just to chase a dream. Sure Willie is worth millions but through his book, I never thought that of him. He reminded me of Sam Walton, a humble man looking to change the world. He started a benefit concert for the farmers of America and is a big advocate of the medicinal uses of marijuana. Everyone told him his playing and singing would never make it big in country music, yet he broke the mold and became the icon he is today.
Like always this was not a typical review but this book is definitely a must-read for any entrepreneur. Why? Because this book outlines what the life of an entrepreneur looks like. He hustled from his teens all the way to the age of forty before becoming successful. Thirty years of the grind and once he became successful he worked harder than he had before. He put out more albums, concerts, collaborations and even dabbled in film. He never became complacent and remained hungry and that is why I loved this book. This book will motivate you to go out and grind, so pick it up and let me know what you think.
Thanks For Reading.