BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Willie Nelson will receive the national library’s pop music prize this year — the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song — as the Library of Congress cited Nelson’s six decades in music Thursday.
Nelson will receive the prize in November when he will be feted with a concert and other honors in Washington, the library said.
Nelson’s songwriting includes country-music standards like “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” as well as the albums “Shotgun Willie” and “Stardust.” And he’s still making new music. Earlier this month, Nelson’s new collaboration with Merle Haggard, “Django and Jimmie,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country album chart.
Librarian of Congress James Billington said the native Texan is a “musical explorer” who has redrawn the boundaries of country music, crossing into jazz, blues, folk, rock and Latin styles.
“A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots,” Billington said in announcing the honor. “Like America itself, he has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs. He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”
Nelson has made more than 200 recordings. In the last five years alone, he has delivered 10 new releases and published a New York Times best-selling book.
The Gershwin Prize honors an artist’s lifetime achievement in music. Past recipients include Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Paul McCartney.
In a written statement, Nelson said it was an honor to be named the next recipient of the Gershwin Prize. “I appreciate it greatly,” he said.