Book Review: Phases and Stages

Sheet Music

Phases and Stages

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes

by Willie Nelson

Random House, 202 pp., $21.95 In some circles, this book is being talked up as Willie Nelson's autobiography. If to you "autobiography" means detailed recollections that follow a chronological order, then an autobiography this ain't. Instead, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes is much more amorphous, reading like a barely edited Willie notebook. There are lyrics (lots of lyrics) and vignettes about Nelson's life on the road. There are shaggy-dog tales about various country music folks (some quite juicy) and pithy aphorisms about life in the biz. There are snickering witticisms from longtime Nelson compatriots like Burdock, Poodie Locke, and veteran roadie Ben Dorcy, and rare photos of a young Willie. And oh yes, as the title suggests, there are plenty of dirty jokes. Entwined among the lyrics and stream-of-consciousness ramblings, though, there's plenty to give you a picture of a day in the life for Willie Nelson, as well as his reflections on growing up in Abbott, Texas, his early days as a lyricist, and his finally getting on the right path after folks like Ray Price and Faron Young scored big hits with his songs. There's a section with Nelson's views on the plight of the family farmer, and more than a little about his passions for golf and wacky weed. There's not much in the author's way with a phrase, but this is still a fun, quick read (think flight from Austin to Dallas) and a great way to brush up on some raunchy, if bewhiskered, jokes. He's obviously come to a point in his life where there's not a whole lot that'll get under his skin. Things wouldn't be complete without a quote or two ... "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." And: "Perfect pitch is when you toss an accordion into the trash and it hits a banjo." Whip those out the next time the conversation lags.

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