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Leon Russell, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young celebrate Willie Nelson's 80th birthday with special "CMT Crossroads"

by Brandy McDonnell Published: April 25, 2013
Willie Nelson (AP file)
Willie Nelson (AP file)

Willie Nelson gathered with close friends and fellow musicians to celebrate his upcoming 80th birthday at a taping of “CMT Crossroads: Willie Nelson & Friends From Third Man Records” in Nashville last week.

The unforgettable episode is slated to air in late June on CMT, and will honor the superstar’s milestone birthday as he swaps lyrics on some of his most-loved songs with Oklahoma native Leon Russell, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Norah Jones, Ashley Monroe and Neil Young, according to a news release.

A long-time admirer of Nelson, Jack White hosted the special from his Nashville-based studio, Third Man Records. Country music icon Nelson turns 80 on Tuesday and released his latest Legacy Recordings album, “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” last week.

With a six-decade career, Nelson has a catalog of more than 200 albums to his credit and is a seven-time Grammy winner. The Texas singer-songwriter earned a permanent position in pop music’s pantheon with songs that combine the sophistication of Tin Pan Alley with the rough-and-tumble grit and emotional honesty of country music. He brought pop and country together on the radio in the early 1960s with unforgettable songs like “Crazy” (Patsy Cline), “Hello Walls” (Faron Young) and others, and by the mid-1970s had become a superstar in his own right as a prime mover of a revolutionary and thriving outlaw country music scene. Nelson’s first album for Columbia Records in 1975, “The Red Headed Stranger,” catapulted him to stardom around the world. 2013 is shaping up as a banner year for Nelson as his memoir “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die – Musings From the Road,” published last year, recently made the New York Times’ best-seller list.

“CMT Crossroads” is produced by Tom Forrest and Kathryn Russ. John Hamlin, Margaret Comeaux and Bill Flanagan serve as executive producers for CMT. British director Sophie Muller – whose resume includes work with The Killers, Annie Lennox, No Doubt and the Eurhythmics to name a few – served as director of the special “CMT Crossroads: Willie Nelson & Friends From Third Man Records.”

Proceeds from Nelson’s previously scheduled performance Sunday at The Backyard in Austin, Texas, will now benefit the West, Texas, volunteer fire department. Please go to for updates on how you can help through donations of goods and funds, including making blood donations to the Red Cross for West, Texas, where a deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant last week leveled several blocks and killed at least 15 people.

“West is just a few miles from my hometown of Abbott. I was born and raised here and it was my backyard growing up. This is my community. These friends and neighbors have always been and are still a part of my life. My heart is praying for the community that we call home,” Nelson said in a news release.


by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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