In the early Seventies, Willie Nelson was a songwriter legend, with such classics as “Crazy” and “Hello Walls” behind him, but wasn’t a major-league artist on his own. When his Nashville home burned down, he hightailed it back to Texas and began remaking himself as a country music outlaw, as he and such kindred, independent spirits as Waylon Jennings became known. With Red Headed Stranger, a self-produced (heresy to the Nashville establishment) concept album about a renegade preacher on the run, Nelson introduced a new sense of ambition and possibility to the genre. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was a Number One single, and when Stranger was followed up with the breakthrough collection Wanted! The Outlaws (with Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser), country music had entered a new era — and Willie Nelson was an international superstar.
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