Creative Team Building and Leadership Resources - In our Elements

Free Willie

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

This week’s Free Ride* muses on one of the great icons of Americana, Willie Nelson, who turned 78 yesterday. Willie is still working full throttle, with over 150 tour dates last year and not slowing down this year. He is an amazing conundrum of country music, defiantly and freely evoking leftist politics and values in a field characterized by a strong right-wing bent. A look at some of his early photos and videos shows that he could have gone mainstream – he had the George Jones look, wore a suit, and was writing some of the biggest hits for the mainstream country audience. But somewhere along the way, he helped develop, along with Waylon and Kris and Johnny, the outlaw persona that has defined his public life for 50 years. You just don’t normally associate country and western culture with gay rights and marijuana legalization campaigns.

And yet there is a strong conservative side to Willie as well, in the classic sense of the term, demonstrated by his continuing support for family farms and for a patriotism that calls us to live out our core values. The American flag bandana is not just for show. For the Free Ride, we could choose from numerous songs to illustrate this kind of progressive conservatism, this authentic life of liberty. I am choosing one of his chart-topping hits from the mid 80s, when he had gone from White House celebrity (under Carter) to persona non grata (under Reagan). In “Living in the Promiseland” he gives voice, as Si Kahn did in last week’s Free Ride blog, to the experience of immigrants who heed the beck and call of the Ellis Island statue.

Give us your tired, your weak
And we will make them strong

Bring us your far off song

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

Living in the Promiseland
Our dreams are made of steels

The prayer of every one

To know how freedom feels

There is a winding road

Across shifting sand

And room for everyone

Living in the Promiseland

So they came with such a sad eye
Nameless woman, faceless child

Like a bad dream

Till there was no room at all

No place to place to run

And no place to fall

Give us your daily bread
We have no shoes to wear

No place to call our home

Only this cross to bear

We are the multitudes

Lend us a helping hand

Is there no love anymore

Living in the Promiseland

Living in the Promiseland
Our dreams are made of steels

The prayer of every man

Know how freedom feels

There is a winding road

Across the shifting sand

And room for everyone

Living in the Promiseland

And room for everyone

Living in the Promiseland

Say what you want about Willie’s politics and lifestyle choices – you can’t argue that he is a free man. And he can write a song.

 

*Free Ride is a Saturday blog from Stan Dotson that takes a different artist or song each week and muses on lyrics of freedom. You can click on the live links in the post to hear the music referenced in the blog. If you have a favorite “freedom” song (it could be any song that has the word free or freedom in it), feel free to suggest it in the comment box below. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.

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