A well-known singer who’s not exactly a part of the country music establishment has become the first country artist to receive the prestigious Gershwin Prize awarded by the Library of Congress.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Texas native Willie Nelson, 82, was named as the 2015 recipient of the prize for popular song.
In a statement announcing the award, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said of Nelson: “Like America itself, he has absorbed and assimilated diverse stylistic influences into his stories and songs. He has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”
Along with his versions of standards such as “Crazy” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Nelson is known for being a country music outsider — including collaborating with “outlaws” such as Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings — and for his highly public love of smoking pot.
Others who have received the award include Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Billy Joel. The award, instituted in 2007, is named for songwriters George and Ira Gershwin.