Willie Nelson, who turns 80 today (born April 30, 1933), is one of those musicians who manages to comfortably straddle very different worlds. To some, he’s a pot smoking, long-haired gay marriage champion, but to others he’s an icon of the often conservative country music circuit. Perhaps it’s not surprising, though. His name, after all, is almost synonymous with the city of Austin – a famously blue city in an otherwise red state.
Nelson made his name playing venues like Austin City Limits and the Austin Opera House, and for much of that time photographer Scott Newton was by his side. Newton has been the official stills photographer for Austin City Limits since 1979. To celebrate Willie’s birthday, TIME presents Newton’s intimate, and rarely seen, portraits of the American musical legend.
Watch: A Talk with Willie Nelson on his Tour Bus in 2011: