Willie Nelson is just a few days away from turning 87, but his friends and family are celebrating early. Nathaniel Rateliff has rallied some of the country icon’s collaborators and relatives for the new tribute track “Willie’s Birthday Song”.
A swinging country ditty, the song opens with the appropriate chorus, “Pass me that joint/ It’s Willie’s birthday/ Wipe away all of your tears/ Well, the world’s gone crazy/ But we still got Willie/ And all the good things he’s done for us here.” It goes on to namedrop albums like Red Headed Stranger, The Promiseland, and Shotgun Willie.
Rateliff, who has a cannabis line with Nelson, called upon a number of fellow artists to join in on the party. Nelson’s sister, Bobbie Nelson, plays piano, while his sons Lukas and Micah sing backing vocals. Also present are Nelson’s harmonica player Mickey Raphael; The Night Sweats members Patrick Meese, Mark Shusterman, and Jeff Dazey; Jonathan Tyler; Matt Pryn; and background vocalists Matthew Logan Vasquez, Nikki Lane, and Courtney Marie Andrews. Each musician filmed their performances, and the footage was compiled into a Rett Rogers-directed music video set to premiere on Nelson’s actual birthday, April 29th.
“Willie’s Birthday Song” also serves as the latest entry in Rateliff’s Marigold Singles series benefitting his Marigold Project. The foundation works with community and nonprofit organizations on economic and social justice initiatives. Proceeds from the “Willie’s Birthday Song” 7-inch, which will feature a Rateliff-Nelson duet on the A-side, will go towards Farm Aid.
The “Willie’s Birthday Song” 7-inch will be available this summer at Rateliff’s web store. In the meantime, you can stream it digitally down below. Update, April 29th: Rateliff has shared the star-studded (literally) video for the track. Watch it below.
Last month, Rateliff took part in Nelson’s virtual Luck Reunion concert event “‘Til Further Notice”, and paid tribute to the late John Prine with a performance of “All the Best”. The Night Sweats founder also recently released his debut solo album, And It’s Still Alright.
Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger was the focus of a recent season of The Opus, and you can revisit the first episode below. Further episodes are available here.
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