CityLab undertakes the ambitious project of mapping every city mentioned in Willie Nelson’s songs.
Willie Nelson’s been around. Over the course of his 50-odd year career, he’s written and sung songs about hundreds of places around the United States. And to celebrate Willie’s summer tour, CityLab at The Atlantic has undertaken the ambitious project of mapping every town the famous singer has ever sung about.
Granted, the editors admit that to map every place Willie has ever sung about would be nigh-impossible. But they’ve got a pretty good first draft going. They’ve compiled a map of 33 cities that Willie has sung about, from Bozeman to Boston, and included the appropriate song.
The map draws heavily from the covers “The City of New Orleans,” “Railroad Lady” and “Please Come to Boston.” Also featured prominently are “Me and Paul” and “Eight More Miles to Louisville.” In fact, the map is only compiled of a total of 33 songs, leaving a lot of Willie’s catalogue yet to be mapped. But CityLab acknowledges that the map is a work in progress.
Featured in the article, however, are several interesting stories behind the songs and about the places that have won Willie’s affection or, sometimes, his anger. The story behind the Steve Goodman-penned “City of New Orleans” is perhaps the most intriguing. Goodman approached legendary songwriter Arlo Guthrie at a bar, asking him to listen to the song. The story goes that Guthrie agreed, but made Goodman buy him a beer and finish playing the song within the time it took for him to drink the beer. The rest is history.
As it is, the map hasn’t come close to including Willie’s entire catalogue or touching on all the places he has sung about. Additionally, the writer is vague and uncertain of his criteria for including a song on his map. However, it is a good start to what will hopefully become a more complete project.
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The article also includes a Spotify playlist of the songs it mentions.