Willie Nelson: A Graphic History

NBM. (NBM Biographies). Sept. 2020. 88p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781681122625.
Gr 9 Up–This frank account takes singer/songwriter Willie Nelson from “Booger Red” (a childhood nickname of rousingly icky origin) to “country music icon” and “elder statesman.” Readers get too little about his technical musicianship but heapin’ helpings of granular information about his early struggles to break into the music biz, the consequences of his weakness for the “constant temptations of willing women,” and his relations with record companies and other musicians. Raised in rural Texas by his grandparents, who gave him his first guitar at age six, Nelson tried his hand at odd jobs from encyclopedia salesman to DJ on local radio, made his first recording in 1955, had his first number one hit in 1961, and has been a fixture on the country music scene ever since. In the course of writing “Crazy,” “On the Road Again,” and other perennial country classics, he also became closely associated with two causes: Farm Aid and the legalization of marijuana—his efforts for the latter featuring several arrests and such highlights as smoking a joint on the roof of the White House. Extensive modeling and shading give the monochrome art in the squared off panels considerable realism (a view of the performer caught butt naked with a girlfriend by yet another enraged wife is particularly memorable), even if Nelson’s spectacularly craggy current features are prettied up in late scenes. Still, his seven-decade career makes a yarn as significant as it is colorful.
VERDICT There’s a bit too much inconsequential detail here, but upper grade fans of Reinhard Kleist’s Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness or popular music in general will flock to this.

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