When you subtitle a book “American Icon,” its subject better have been a big deal. At 84 years of age, with an estimated 40 million albums sold in the United States alone, and well over 70 full-length studio albums released, it is safe to say that Willie Nelson fits the subtitle of this book. Commercial success aside, Nelson founded Farm Aid, co-chaired the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and has appeared in dozens of movies.
So, why is a comprehensive coffee table book like this not getting a perfect 10 out of 10 rating? The simple answer is that Willie Nelson has written several books — the first of which was 1988’s Willie: An Autobiography — and has been the subject of plenty of other books. So if you were a diehard fan of the Red Headed Stranger, aside from this being a 2017 release with exclusive commentary, you probably know most of what author Andrew Vaughan has already written. As prolific and active as Nelson has been since the aforementioned 1988 memoir, most of what you probably would want to know about from Nelson’s personal life and career was covered by the man himself in writing decades ago.
What Willie Nelson: American Icon especially has going for it is not only its research and detail-oriented writing — author Vaughan was the editorial director for the American Music Channel and is the current digital marketing director for Gibson.com — but also its layout. Its pages are not glossy, instead they are colored to look aged, almost like a vintage Gibson Les Paul. It is full of pictures you most likely have never seen, both of Wilson and the subjects being written about; on page 98, for example, we see Nelson standing with then-President Jimmy Carter and singer Charley Pride. We ultimately see Nelson playing with multiple generations of artists he influenced, including Beck, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Diana Krall and Elvis Costello, yet the legend is also pictured alongside peers and various people from his past.
Fortunately, the book has a happy ending. In addition, son Lukas Nelson is currently on the road and getting more popular by the week. Thus, with Willie Nelson: American Icon, you have yourself an inspiring, good-looking, historically-accurate piece of literature that may be hard to put down.
Written by: Andrew Vaughan
Publisher: Sterling (October 3, 2017)
Format/Length: Hardcover, 208 pages
Check out the YouTube video “Willie Nelson Book – Andrew Vaughan Interview”: