Whether it's revealing that he's the "chief testing officer" at his own cannabis company, or that he smoked weed on the White House roof, Willie Nelson is always a treat on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. On Friday, the country legend visited the NBC talk show, again, to promote his new book, Willie Nelson's Letters to America. But the conversation quickly turned toward some fan-favorite topics including the story behind "On the Road" and Nelson's recent duet with his friend Barbra Streisand.
Willie Nelson Chats with Jimmy Fallon
After a lifetime spent on a cross-country tour bus, the 88-year-old Willie Nelson has wisdom to share. In Willie Nelson's Letters to America, the country music star (and co-writer Turk Pipkin) shares his trademark positive musings through an epistolary format. Comprised of open letters with titles like "Dear America" and "Dear Willie," Nelson is trying to reach just about everyone: friends, heroes, and all Americans, present and future. Rounded out with lyrics to some of Nelson's most famous songs, the book will be a revelation for super-fans... and downright interesting to more casual listeners. According to Rolling Stone, the work is something of a follow-up to Nelson's previous memoirs: Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of a Family Band and It's a Long Story: My Life.
Naturally, Nelson plugged the project in his late night talk with Jimmy Fallon, who gushed that reading the words feels like "hanging out" with Nelson. Sounds pretty good to us!
"Dear readers, thank you for picking up a copy of my new book: a collection of fond memories, personal letters, good songs, and bad jokes."
-- from Willie Nelson's Letters to America
Of course, the conversation turned to Nelson's more musical accomplishments, including the start of his latest tour. After a year without concerts, Nelson worries that he doesn't even remember the words to "Whiskey River!" No doubt the pandemic forced everyone to change their lifestyles. But to a musician synonymous with being "On the Road Again," the return of live performances really means a lot.
Lucky for us, Nelson indulged Fallon's questions about the beloved wanderlust tune. Nelson said he came up with the idea for the song while he was on a plane with the directors Syndey Pollack and Jerry Schatzburg. And the rest was pretty simple! Schatzburg needed a song for his 1980 movie The Honeysuckle Rose, which starred Nelson. "Well what do you want it to be about?" Nelson asked. Schatzburg said, "Well, something about being on the road." Nelson's quick response? "How about something like 'On the road again, I can't wait to get on the road again?' " Of course, you know the rest by heart.
"I'd Want It To Be You"
Just this month, Streisand and Nelson released "I'd Want It To Be You": a touching ode to their long friendship. (A version of the piece featuring Blake Shelton appeared on Streisand's 2014 album Partners; the duet had been intended for Nelson but was cut.) On The Tonight Show, Nelson explained that he got to know Streisand when she was shooting A Star is Born with Kris Kristofferson, back in the mid-'70s. Since then, they've stayed in touch and enjoy each other's company. Nelson calls her a "good friend" and a "great singer." Despite that relationship, though, this is the first time the public has ever heard a collaboration between the pair. Watch their stunning lyric video, above.