cover image Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs

Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs

Willie Nelson with David Ritz and Mickey Raphael. Morrow, $50 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-327220-0

Nelson (Willie Nelson’s Letters to America) shares in this irresistible outing the origins of songs from across his more than 60-year music career. Writing that the “energy driving my words remains a mystery to me,” Nelson is coy about his songwriting skills—when a producer told him he’d composed a weird hymn filled with metaphors (1970’s “Laying My Burdens Down”), he protested that he didn’t even know how to spell metaphor, let alone understand the concept. But his intelligence and wisdom shine through, not just in his familiarity with the ideas of Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Kahlil Gibran, but in his easy ownership of his faults (reflecting on the “black widow-type... woman who does a man dirty” in 1961’s “Funny How Time Slips Away,” he muses that “if anything, it’s been the other way around” in his life) and comfort with his spiritual side (“Creativity flows from a higher source filled with love,” he writes of 1962’s “Kneel at the Feet of Jesus”). The weakest points are where Nelson seems most certain, including generalizations about the sexes that feel like throwbacks to a different era (“Men have a tough time getting over their cowboy fantasies”). Still, fans will relish these insights into the singer-songwriter’s many avatars: the kid growing up poor with close ties to his church and family; the political activist who wrote “Vote ‘Em Out” for Beto O’Rourke’s 2018 senatorial campaign; and the enigmatic, sui generis artist. This is a treasure. Photos. (Oct.)