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At 80, Willie Nelson Has 'No Complaints'

The Red Headed Stranger reflects on life — and offers a little love counsel

Portrait of Willie Nelson, 2010

Willie Nelson (pictured in 2010) is now 80 and on the road again. — UNIMEDIA/SIPA/Newscom

En español | Willie Nelson, who turns 80 on April 30, has released more than 100 albums since signing his first record contract 52 years ago. His latest album, Let's Face the Music and Dance, reinterprets old pop, rock, jazz and country classics with his Family band.

See also: The young and old(er) make music together

We grabbed a few minutes with Nelson as he prepared to celebrate the Big 8-0.

Willie Nelson with electric guitar, 1967

Willie Nelson, circa 1967. — Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Q: Tell me about Face the Music. Do you have a favorite track?

A: I did a couple of Django [Reinhardt] songs on there that I really like. "South of the Border," "Let's Face the Music and Dance" — all of those are old favorites I've been doing for years.

Q: I loved Michael Hall's Texas Monthly feature on Trigger, the N-20 Martin classical guitar you've played since 1969. How's Trigger doing these days?

A: Trigger's doing good — best guitar I ever owned! The wood on the inside had rotted out, so I've had a lot of work done on Trigger, but it's still in pretty good shape. We'll probably both wear out around the same time.

Q: What about you? How do you stay in shape on the road?

A: I've been doing a lot of running and biking and swimming for years now. Oh, and martial arts — I'm a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do. That kind of exercise keeps you in pretty good condition.

Willie Nelson and wife Annie D'Angelo, 2000

Willie Nelson and his wife of 22 years, Annie D'Angelo Nelson, arrive at the 2010 Grammy Awards. — Lucy Nicholson/AFP/Getty Images

On the bus, going down the highway at 80 miles an hour, is where I practice my tae kwon do forms. I figure if I can do those on a speeding bus, I ought be able to do them on the ground standing still. When I get ready to take my test, we stop the bus, I get out, and my tour manager David Anderson films me doing the requirements by the side of the road. Then we send those to my teacher in Austin and he says, "You passed the test!" I've earned a lot of my belts out on the highway.

Q: You have seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Do you use social media to keep up with them?

A: My wife, Annie, tweets with everybody. I text and email my friends and family a lot, but that's about the extent of my high-tech-itude. All my kids were raised on computers: They were home-schooled on the Internet, so they're pretty good at that stuff. And I'm proud of them, but I don't really keep up with it.

Q: You and Annie have been married for 22 years. Is there a secret to your stability?

A: If you really want to get along with somebody, let them be themselves. Don't try to change anybody. And they should let you be yourself: "You loved me when you met me, so let's keep going!"

Next page: Wille Nelson talks music, grandchildren and turning 80. »

GOOD WISHES: AARP members say (and even sing) "Happy 80th Birthday" to Willie Nelson.

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN AND AGAIN: Learn more about Willie Nelson's career and newest albums.


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