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Willie Nelson is one of country music’s greatest icons, with a career spanning over 5 decades. At 84 years old, it’s no wonder his legendary career has spawned many secrets.

Farmer Nelson

Though his days bailing hay and farming pigs are long behind him, Willie Nelson is still a passionate advocate for small farms. In 1985 he set up Farm Aid along with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to raise awareness about the importance of small, family farms. The organization began as a benefit concert in Chicago, and featured Nelson along with Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, and other well-known musicians. The organization has grown since then, with Nelson serving as president of the board.

Tax Trouble

Due to severe mismanagement of his money, including tax evasion by one of his managers, the IRS seized $32,000 in assets from Nelson in 1990. Many of his friends purchased his belongings at auction, and then leased them back to Nelson for a nominal fee. In order to pay the rest, he released “The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories?” as a double sided album, with all proceeds going towards his debt. He was able to clear it entirely by 1993.

Surviving the Fall

Nelson’s friend, Larry Trader has talked about the time Nelson survived a small plane crash near the Western town where the Alamo was filmed. Happy Shahan was reportedly watching the plane come in, knowing Nelson was on board, when the plane flipped while landing on the runway. Ever the publicity man, Shahan called the local press, before he saw Nelson and the pilot limp up his driveway together, a little scratched up, but otherwise intact.

The Braidy Bunches

When Willie Nelson was first starting out, he kept his image clean cut and was clean shaven, like many others in the early 1950s. He first grew his hair out starting in the early 70s, which led to him braiding his hair in order to keep it out of the way during his shows. Sometime in the 80s, he cut them off and gave them to his manager. They ended up in the hands of his friend Waylon Jennings, who later auctioned them off for a whopping $37,000.

Chart Topping Legacy

Nelson’s 1978 Stardust, an album of pop standards, was such a hit that it remained on the country charts for 540 consecutive weeks. That translates to a full ten years on the charts. Critics predicted that the album would ruin his career, but Nelson proved them all wrong when it went platinum later that year. Stardust became a critical and commercial success, and by 2002 it had gone quintuple platinum, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for the class of 2015.

From Country to TV Star

During Nelson’s 1975 tour, following his newfound creative successes, he raised money for PBS-affiliated stations throughout the country to promote their new concert series, “Austin City Limits.” The pilot episode was released later that year starring Nelson, which expanded into a 10 episode season in 1976. The show was responsible for giving Austin the moniker of “Live Music Capital of the World” and has been running now for over 40 years. The program also inspired the creation of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Out of the Fire

In 1970, Nelson’s Tennessee ranch burned down. It had been a tough year for Nelson, but he was able to run in and save several prized possessions, including two guitar cases, one that housed his trusted guitar, Trigger, and another that served as a conduit for a large amount of his favorite recreational activity. His other possessions weren’t so lucky. The night before the fire, he and Henry Cochran had written 7 new songs together. All in all, he lost over 100 tapes of unrecorded songs.

On the Plane Again

“On the Road Again,” Nelson’s hit single from the 1980 movie Honeysuckle Rose, was supposedly written on a paper bag while traveling on an airplane with the film’s producer, Sydney Pollack, who requested that Nelson write about life on the road as for the film’s theme. The song has become one of Nelson’s most recognizable songs, and won him the Grammy Award for Best Song a year later. It was his 9th number 1 single on the Country and Western charts.

Cowboy Electric

Willie Nelson’s first leading role in a film may have been in Honeysuckle Rose, but he made his film debut a year earlier as Wendell Hickson in The Electric Horseman, which starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The film was a “western adventure-romance” about a former rodeo champion who runs away with a famed racehorse, in order to release it to a better life in the wild. According to Sydney Pollack, who directed the film, Nelson improvised almost all of his dialogue.

Any Other Name

Willie Nelson is surprisingly not named for his grandfather William (who was known by his middle name, Alfred), but was given the name Willie by his cousin Mildred. She also chose his middle name ‘Hugh’ in honor of her recently deceased younger brother, Hugh. His parents were Merle and Ira Doyle Nelson, neither of whom were very present in his childhood. His mother left shortly after his birth, and his father left the family after he remarried.

A Texan Shakespeare

Nelson may be best known as a prolific songwriter, but he has also written 9 books on a variety of different subjects. His first book, which he co-wrote with Bud Shrake was an autobiography called Willie: An Autobiography. It was released by Simon & Schuster in 1988, and was well-received by critics. He has since penned several other collections of memoirs, a book on his philosophy of life, as well as a book about the benefits of bio-diesel called “On the Clean Road Again”

Jedi Master Nelson

Nelson was introduced to the world of martial arts through comic books in his childhood, which inspired him to order several manuals on jiu-jitsu. He began practicing Tae Kwon Do in the 80s, and would tape himself practicing the moves on his tour bus, in order to send them to his supervising master for critique. After practicing for over 20 years, the Grand Master Sam Um presented him with a 5th degree black belt in a ceremony in Austin.

Hawaiian Haven

Nelson’s home is located on the island of Maui, in a community of self-sustaining houses that are populated by other eco-conscious celebrities, including Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson. The houses there are mostly run off of solar power, in order to lower their carbon footprint. Nelson also owns property in Austin, Texas, where he lived when his music career first took off. In addition to his Austin ranch, he also owns a local church and a grocery store.

Ghostwriter

The first mainstream success Nelson had as a musician was a songwriter for other famous artists. While his first few records were commercial failures, he finally gained a foothold with the release of Billy Walker singing “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Roy Orbison’s cover of “Pretty Paper,” and most famously, Patsy Cline’s recording of “Crazy,” which went on to become the biggest jukebox hit of all time. Cline’s husband discovered the song when he met Nelson at Tootsie’s Orchard Bar in Nashville.

A Marrying Man

Willie Nelson has gone through his fair share of marriages. His first marriage to Martha Matthews lasted for 10 years, but was marred by violence and instability. He married Shirley Collie in 1963, but they divorced when she discovered that he had fathered a child with Connie Koepke, whom he married later that year. The couple split in 1988, after 17 years of marriage, but Nelson pressed on and married 4th and current wife, Annie D’Angelo in 1991.

Willie’s Reserve

Nelson is taking his agricultural background to new heights with his current business venture, Willie’s Reserve. He plans on releasing his own varietals of high-quality, medicinal herbs, as well as equipment for their consumption, now that several states have legalized their sale and purchase. According to a recent interview, the idea hedges him on making a name for himself in the budding industry in the same way that Paul Newman made a name for himself as a purveyor of natural food products.

Willie’s Reserve
High Achiever

In 1993, Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and was chosen as the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998. In addition to the recognition of his musical contributions, he has also been inducted in the Agricultural Hall of Fame, has won the Gershwin Prize, awarded by the Library of Congress, received the ‘Feed the Peace’ award from the Nobelity Project for his work with Farm Aid, and received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music in 2013.

Willie Nelson Country Music Hall of Fame
The Legend Continues

Even at 84 years old, Nelson is still writing and recording music. His 2014 album, Band of Brothers, was the first album to top the country charts since “The Promiseland” in 1986, and reached number 5 on the Billboard 200, the highest position he reached on the chart since 1982. Earlier this year, he released “God’s Problem Child,” which he mostly co-wrote with Buddy Cannon. The album opened at number one on the country charts, and even reached number 10 on the Billboard 200.

Grand Ole Debut

Before he made his debut at the Grand Ole Opry in 1965, Willie Nelson had mostly played at bars and honky tonks. Because of the vulgar reputations these sorts of venues carried, his daughter Lana recounts that she wasn’t able to see him play until he began performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Lana, born in 1953 with his first wife Martha Matthews, was 12 years old before she first saw him perform in public.

Willie Nelson’s Secret Family

Though Willie Nelson has fathered 7 children among his 4 wives, he also recently discovered he had a secret family with another woman. An old flame of Nelson’s, Mary Haney, gave birth to a daughter, Renee, and never told Willie, as the two had lost touch by then. Renee it turns out, also has a daughter, Noelle, and a granddaughter Jordan. Nelson was happy to learn of hidden family, and only regrets that he didn’t find out about them sooner.

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Books

Steamrolling Terry Pratchett

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(FILES) This file photo taken on October 05, 2010 shows British author Terry Pratchett, arriving to attend the third day of the Conservative party conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, central England, on October 5, 2010.
Unfinished works by late British comic fantasy author Terry Pratchett have been destroyed using a steamroller in line with his wishes for the works not to be completed and published after his death. Pratchett died in 2015 aged 66 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His Discworld novesl are some of the best-selling works in English fiction around the world. / AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

One of the great sci-fi writers of his time and author of the Discworld series of books, Sir Terry Pratchett always maintained a request that others may have found rather peculiar, but for the late and prolific writer, it was merely another aspect of his career that he wanted continued. Throughout his life, Pratchett was clear that when he died, he wanted all of the writing he was doing at the moment of his death, if it was unfinished, to be placed alongside his computers in the middle of a road for a steamroller to crush.

Now that the author has passed on, he received his wish in a manner that slower writers (like George R. R. Martin) might wish that they had the opportunity to use as an excuse.

Earlier this year, Pratchett’s wishes were fulfilled at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, photos of which were sent out via Twitter by Rob Wilkins, the manager of Pratchett’s estate. And even though his writing is lost now, the materials that were destroyed will stick around as they are being given to the Salisbury Museum for an upcoming exhibit based around all things Pratchett. It is truly a unique and clever way to go out!

It is always very amusing to see people who had a wry sense of humor while they were alive (which often makes sense, considering the wishes they have for what will happen to them and their work once they die) have their death wishes fulfilled once the time comes. After all, there are probably quite a few people who would object heavily to the destruction of Pratchett’s work, but it is absolutely right to honor the late great author’s final request. Always better to go out on the highest possible note rather than have someone disappointingly finish your work for you.

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Top Novels from Amber Tamblyn

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The star of films like 127 Hours and Django Unchained and television shows like Joan of Arcadia and House, Amber Tamblyn is, unlike many others, a Renaissance women. Not only is she a splendid actor, but she also dabbles in directing, poetry, and writing of her own. Because much like us, she is a total literature nerd. Thankfully, she is sharing her love of the books by releasing what her list of her favorite books are. Sure, you have probably heard of or even read some of these, but you have not likely heard of each one. Thanks to Tamblyn, you can get some exposure to brand new books!

Her list was presented in no particular order, but it does boast classics that do not fit into the category of prose, like Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, a play about an abusive family, or Loba by Diane di Prima, a collection of poems that tackle the topic of feminism in an interesting and thought-provoking manner. Something that is a bit lighter and funnier is Amy Poehler’s exceptional memoir, Yes Please. But Tamblyn also makes room on her list for gripping, thrilling books, as well, as evidenced by the inclusion of There Is No Year by Blake Butler.

Some people might believe that the notion of receiving suggestions for literature from film and television actors is counterintuitive. I have even heard some people argue that the only places they go for recommendations for books is the literary realm, whether it is book critics, novel enthusiasts, or authors themselves. I can understand this line of thinking, but it is not always a helpful one. Tamblyn is a book enthusiast just like all of us and you would definitely well to heed the advice she provides.

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Books

2017’s Movies from Books

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Whether you know it or not or even like it or not, books and novels are always going to be remade into films. It is a time honored tradition utilized by filmmakers to take the most riveting stories from the page and adapt them for the screen. Some work, like Steven Spielberg’s immaculate retellings of Jaws and Jurassic Park. Others (looking at you, Divergent) prove to be failures. 2017 is no different from this tradition because we are already in September and there are upwards of twenty book-to-movie adaptations still to come! Here are a few of the most highly anticipated.

One of the most hotly awaited of these is a horror movie, which seems to be few and far between these days, the remake of Stephen King’s classic tale, It, which once starred Tim Curry and now boasts Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Danny Strong’s Rebel in the Rye is based on a book about the life of a writer, J.D. Salinger. Actor Nicholas Hoult will portray the man who penned The Catcher in the Rye. Jo Nesbo’s 2007 bestselling thriller, The Snowman, will see the big screen on the twentieth of October and it will star Michael Fassbender, who starred in such films as Steve JobsFrank, and X-Men: First Class.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is also being remade, with this adaptation directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. The movie will also feature the talents of Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, and Josh Gad.

And lastly, The Disaster Artist will see James Franco illustrate the making of the cult classic, The Room, thanks to Greg Sestero’s account of the subject. The movie also features an all-star cast including Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, Nathan Fielder, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, and many, many more. It has even garnered some Oscar buzz!

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