Sunday, April 22, 2012

420 In Austin Texas - Finally, a Statue of Willie!

It has been a week to remember! Friday, April 20 (4/20) at 4:20 was the unveiling of Willie Nelson's statue in front of the the Austin City Limits, Moody Theater on Willie Nelson Blvd! I read that there was a crowd of about 2,000 but in my mind, I was amongst small group of friends and family as Willie helped unveil the statue honoring him. For those of you who have been living under a rock, 420 has long been reserved to celebrate smoking pot. Organizers said they didn't intentionally choose April 20 for the event, but once they found out, they scheduled the unveiling at 4:20 p.m. as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Willie's advocacy for the legalization of pot.

The statue was created by Philadelphia sculptor, Clete Shields who said the leaning pose and heroic scale are intended to show Nelson's openness and whimsical side while honoring his tremendous influence on music and the city. He said  "We wanted to get a timeless Willie, an ageless Willie."

Friday was very surreal. To the world Willie is a 10-time Grammy Award winner who has sold more than 40 million copies of his 150 albums. The heartfelt congratulations from Kris Kristofferson expressed more of what Willie is to me and brought tears to my eyes. He said how proud he was of his friend and he couldn't have imagined the city honoring Willie during the early days of what became known as the Cosmic Cowboy movement in music. That is a time that so many of us hold close to our hearts. I was 18 and Willie's daughter, Lana was 20 when we became roommates. That year (1974) we drove Lana's Ford station wagon with our other roommate Mary, following Willie on his California tour. We thought he might need our support on the west coast only to find the crowds as large as they were in Texas. We celebrated Lana's 21st birthday at the famous Italian restaurant, Vanessi's in San Francisco with my sister, Nita who was living in Marin County, and the entire Willie Nelson band.

From the first time I saw Willie perform, I was always amazed at how he would make contact with everyone in the crowd starting with the front row. You could just feel the energy move all the way to the back of the crowd. To the drunkest in the crowd he would sing "Whiskey River" and end the show with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Everyone would leave feeling like we had just gone to church. In the 80s, during the first year of Farm-Aid,  Willie's secretary Jody Fischer, hired me to help with the overwhelming response from farmers and supporters at the recording studio.

Nita, Bianca, Cayce, Martha, Christina and Mario
Christina, Carole, Kate and Nita
Before the unveiling, a small group of friends and family met at Lambert's, a block away so we could walk together to the big event. My favorite conversation of the day .... 

Lana says to me, as we are walking on Willie Nelson Blvd in front of a store filled with Willie Nelson T-Shirts, towards the unveiling of the Willie Nelson statue... "So tell me something exciting going on in your life. " I said "Not much, just doing art, painting. And you?" Lana says "Not much. Just going to see an statue of my dad." 

We stopped in on the way and Lana bought Willie T-Shirts for some of the kids.
Dean and Mario

Then there was Lana's son Bryan who wore his own awesome T-Shirt that Willie and Annie had given him. It just seemed appropriate to wear to the unveiling of his grandfather's statue.

So here we are in 2012, our kids are grown and have their own kids. Willie was an inspiration to my parents who were older than him, my generation's inspiration, our hero and  became our kid's hero and now our grandkids. Earlier this week Willie had played in St Louis and Christian and Carrie took my grandson, Andrew to his first Willie concert. Last night was another wonderful opening night with Willie at "The Backyard." I had the privilege of going with Nita and my great  niece, Bianca to her first Willie concert. She was beyond excited and so in tuned with what Willie is about. It was awesome hanging with her. Then Nita took her on stage to get a better look at Willie.
Martha and avoided the stage rush and went to the green room where she found "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac.

Finally!  A statue of Willie in downtown Austin!
It is a glorious day! 

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