Willie Nelson can add the prestigious “Gershwin Prize” to his long list of legendary accomplishments. Today, Nelson will accept the award at a gala in Washington, D.C. He is the first country artist to ever accept the honor.
In July, the Library of Congress named Nelson as the 2015 recipient of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, describing him as “a musical explorer” who has pushed the boundaries of country music.
“A master communicator, the sincerity and universally appealing message of his lyrics place him in a category of his own while still remaining grounded in his country-music roots,” said James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, in a statement, adding the his “achievements as a songwriter and performer are legendary, and that he “has helped make country music one of the most universally beloved forms of American artistic expression.”
The library gives the award to living musicians “whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.” The award has only been given out seven times. Past recipients include Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Carol King, Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Nelson is currently on the road with Merle Haggard, supporting their new album Django and Jimmie. He’s currently in the sixth decade of his career.