Willie Nelson's Eleven Best Duets

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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.

When your career is as long, storied and diverse as Willie Nelson's, the group of musicians lining up to share the stage will be equally impressive. Throughout his fifty-plus years making music, Willie's proven an adaptable and generous singing partner. Here are 11 of our favorites, with video.

See also:
-Willie Nelson's Eight Best Movie Roles
-Willie Nelson Turns 80: A Tribute and Playlist for a Texas Treasure
-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

11. Stephen Colbert
"You're really high, I'm gonna tell your savior." Stephen Colbert's Christmas special aired on Comedy Central back in 2008, and featured an impressive guest list of singer-songwriters and George Wendt. Willie Nelson sang this number as the Fourth Wise Man, bearing a special herb as his only gift for the newborn baby Jesus. Willie's charming sincerity makes for a perfect pairing with Colbert's charming satire, who chimes in with backup lines such as, "Dude, man, dude." --Aaron Ortega

10. Julio Iglesias
"To All the Girls I've Loved Before" was a huge hit for both members of the odd duo. It became Iglesias' English language breakthrough and his biggest hit in the U.S. Willie received international acclaim for the song, and it has been covered repeatedly, including by Alanis Morissette in 2010. (LE)

9. Kid Rock
One thing about Willie Nelson, he loves to share his music with other artists and often invites them to join him on stage. From Norah Jones to Toby Keith, Willie's proven time and time again that his music is universal. But it's his partnership with the "outlaws" of music that resonates in this Texan's heart. Bob Dylan, two generations of Hank Williams and Keith Richards are pure metal. But it's his collaboration with Kid Rock, who idolized the outlaws of country, that deserves recognition. "Last Stand in Open Country," a song about outlaws, was their first duet together, but it's their rendition of "Shotgun Willie" that stole the show.--Christian McPhate

8. Santana
Santana's duets are hit (Lauryn Hill and Michelle Branch) and miss (Chad Kroeger and Sean Paul) but his rendition of "They All Went To Mexico" with Nelson, seemingly light-hearted and poppy but actually a meditation on death, was a hit. Seems to be a distant cousin to Dylan's "Going to Acapulco." --Lee Escobedo

7. Shirley Collie
The Hill Country hillbilly broke into the country music Top 10 in 1962 with a duet with his second-wife, Shirley Collie on "Touch Me." Their marriage produced a string of collaborative hits, at times heart-breaking and tender and symbolic of their passionate, but short lived marriage. Note: Their version of "Touch Me" is not readily available for streaming online, so you'll have to listen to "Willingly" and use your imagination. (LE)

6. Lee Ann Womack
In the wake of Carlos Santana cherry-picking pop-stars in order to revive his career, Willie released The Great Divide in 2002, a so-so album that featured some seemingly forced duets (Brian McKnight, and yes, Rob Thomas). Even though the album wasn't near the blockbuster that Santana's had been, Willie's duet with country traditionalist Lee Ann Womack rivals some of Nelson's greatest collabs. This is the one tune on the album where the oily-modern production didn't kill the song, but gave it some life. The two Texas treasures proffered a song that was every bit as "smooth" as the pseudo-Latin fluff that Rob Thomas was shoving down our throats back then. (KD)



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2 comments
ChrisYu
ChrisYu

Willie and Mary Kay Place 'Something to Brag About'....only because nobody else remembers it.

yoka
yoka

Good list.  I had to check it out and make sure you included Willie's work with Neil Young, and yes, you did! An impressive collaboration, especially considering they pretty much invented Farm Aid.  I wish Neil was part of Willie's fourth of July show.

The clips with Kid Rock, Ray Charles and Waylon were great too.  A fun watch. 

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