Willie Nelson “Living in the Promised Land”
On February 17, 2020, Willie Nelson packed the new Key West Coffee Butler Amphitheater with 4,000 loving fans. It was the largest crowd ever for a Key West concert. For good measure, he did it again in 2023. It was a privilege to hear this legendary performer live. The seven time Grammy award winner has scored more than 60 Top-40 Country hits and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. He has appeared in more than 30 films including my personal favorite, the 1979 romantic drama, “Electric Horseman” which included Willie Nelson songs almost exclusively.
Along with his many awards, Nelson received the Gershwin Prize for popular song, established by the Library of Congress. In his honor, a packed auditorium gathered at Constitution Hall in Washington DC on November 18, 2015. It was a special night with fellow Texan, actor Don Johnson as Master of Ceremonies along with Neil Young, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, and a dozen other amazing performers covering some of his greatest songs. At the end of the incredible 90-minute show, Willie took the stage, along with his two sons and many friends, and performed three wonderful songs.
He could have played “On the Road Again”, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”, and “Crazy”, and left it at that–it was his night. He was receiving one of the highest honors the country can bestow on a songwriter. But what made this night really special was Willie Nelson knew that the House of Representatives had, just hours before the concert, passed a terrible “slam-the-door-in-their-face” bill to block the entry of Syrian refugees fleeing for their very lives.
Images of their suffering had been in the news for weeks. The leaders and many members of the U.S. Congress were sitting in the audience. Some of them had just turned their backs on people in extreme danger.
So, Willie Nelson saved his best for last. He reached deep down in his personal playlist and pulled out a song written nearly three decades earlier. His last song that night was a musical statement to those who had voted, just a couple of hours earlier, to turn away people in danger and in desperate need.
The song was “Living in the Promiseland” and the lyrics of the first verse tells the amazing story of living here in the United States of America.
Give us your tired and weak,
And we will make them strong.
Bring us your foreign songs,
And we will sing along.
Leave us your broken dreams,
We’ll give them time to mend.
There’s still a lot of love,
Living in the Promiseland.
There are a few more verses but this gives you an idea what the song was about. It’s about the inscription at the bottom of Lady Liberty in New York harbor. You should listen to the entire concert on PBS.Org — https://www.cpb.org/programs/library-congress-gershwin-prize-popular-song-2015-willie-nelson
Willie Nelson wrote and recorded “Living in the PromiseLand” in 1986, and it fit perfectly into that evening and the political environment. The audience went absolutely wild. Willie chose to make a statement as he was being celebrated. I stay out of politics most of the time but I’m with Willie on this one. We just remembered the 22nd Anniversary of 9/11. We are all fortunate to live in this promised land and there is still a lot of love here. God Bless Willie Nelson. This event and this song reminds me why I love music.
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