Book Review: Read My Lips

Austin outlaw Willie Nelson updates his 1988 autobiography

Read My Lips

It's A Long Story: My Life

by Willie Nelson, with David Ritz
Little, Brown and Company, 400 pp., $30

Country music's at-large outlaw already boasts one autobiography, 1988's Willie: An Autobiography, co-written with Texan man of letters Bud Shrake. Two decades later, Joe Nick Patoski's Willie Nelson: An Epic Life put forth a biographical last word on the pride of Abbott. Much has happened in the years since the former book, so the 82-year-old author/subject delves into the loss of son Billy, marriage to wife Annie, and the IRS fiasco running through It's A Long Story: My Life like a grim refrain. There's a fresh recounting of how Booger Red received a teenage musical apprenticeship in Central Texas dance bands, gathered cosmopolitan musical influences (Bob Wills, Django Reinhardt, even Elvis Presley), blossomed into a one-of-a-kind Nashville songwriter, and eventually became the crown prince of Austin progressive country, then an American icon. Nelson chose wisely in co-author David Ritz, expert musical biographer and ghost writer of award-winning memoirs from Ray Charles and Buddy Guy. Together, the two channel Nelson directly to the reader: warm, witty, and burnished with cowboy mystic wisdom.

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