The 20 Best Willie Nelson Songs

Danny Hurley
In honor of the Texas hero's 80th Birthday celebration and legendary 4th of July Picnic, we're celebrating Willie Nelson Week here on DC9 at Night. Check back for interviews, retrospectives and more.

We're calling this the 20 best Willie Nelson songs, but really that's just where we chose to stop. One of the things that makes him so beloved is the depth of his catalogue, which includes some fifty years of humble consistency as both a songwriter and masterful interpreter. So this is 20 we can't live without, but there will always be more -- tell us which Willie songs you love the most in the comments.

See also:
-Willie Nelson's Eight Best Movie Roles
-Willie Nelson's Eleven Best Duets
-The IRS Tapes: How Willie Nelson Taught us To Care About Stuff That Matters, Not Money
-How Willie Nelson Won the Lone Star State: Illustrated Map

Willie's Best Songs by Kiernan Robert on Grooveshark

Whiskey River
Usually the opening song at Willie's live performances, "Whiskey River" is another one of those tracks so closely associated with Nelson that many forget he didn't write it. Penned by Johnny Bush, Willie recorded the song in 1973 for his album Shotgun Willie. Interestingly, the song didn't become a bona fide hit until five years later when Nelson included in on Willie and Family Live. Whatever its origins, "Whiskey River" remains a Nelson classic, a lively tale of loss and remembrance. --Darryl Smyers

Bloody Mary Morning
From Phases and Stages, the greatest concept album about divorce ever, this is a sad, but romping drinking tune that is every bit as fun - whether it should be or not -- as "Whiskey River." --Kelly Dearmore

Beer For My Horses
Though this song was co-authored by Toby Keith, it's still a rousing ditty, perfect for summoning the courage needed to play a high school football game or some other war based activity. -- Brian Rash

Although not written by Nelson, his cover of dude-bro diplomat Dave Matthews' '03 track is a one-up on the original. Nelson is the perfect narrator for this tale of forgotten souls. --Lee Escobedo

City of New Orleans
This Steve Goodman-written classic has been covered by many of the greats but, it's impossible to accept this tune coming from anyone else's voice at this point. Willie and train songs go as well together as Willie and certain herbal remedies. (KD)

The Maker
As adventurous as Willie has always been, few albums represent his lack of concern for sonic boundaries as his excellent, Daniel Lanois-produced 1998 record, Teatro. Oddly enough it's this Lanois-penned tune that stands out the most on the record. Lanois' production and Nelsons nasal tone blend to hypnotic effect in this oft-overlooked tune. (KD)

Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain
This song, written by Fred Rose and made famous by Willie, is one of the most beautiful, strolling moments of his classic 1975 album, The Red Headed Stranger. (BR)

If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time
Willie has always paid wonderful tribute to his heroes. In this Lefty Frazell tune, Willie plays no games and just shoots his lover straight with "And if you run short of money, I'll run short of time." (KD)

The Highwaymen
A tale of a soul living four different lives, in four different eras all meeting an untimely end is the song the brought together Country's ultimate super group. A highwayman, a sailor, a dam builder and an astronaut, four verses, sung by four of country music's most enduring legends: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. It's pretty much perfect. --Jaime-Paul Falcon

On The Road Again
When it comes to venturing out on the open road in search of whatever you may or may not be looking for, subjectively, there is no better song to start that playlist. (BR)

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any on Willie's interpretations from 'Stardust' is better than 'Beer for my Horses' good lord.

sorry I know these are just opinions.

Doug Christenson
Doug Christenson

"Whiskey River" Saw Willie in the summer of 1974 for the 1st time...he played it 4 times that night!

Fort Live
Fort Live

Still is Still Moving. There is a reason Willie follows whiskey river with this song at every show he does. #greatness

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