Willie Nelson, arguably the greatest singer-songwriter ever associated with Austin, will be the keynote speaker for this year's SXSW (South by Southwest), which will be held digitally on March 16-20 due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
"No individual has had the cultural impact on, or been more synonymous with the creative vibrancy of Austin than Willie Nelson, and we are incredibly honored to have him as a SXSW Online 2021 Keynote," said Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer (as quoted by Variety). "In addition to dozens of incredible featured speakers, today's announcement also includes more than 200 sessions curated from our global community via PanelPicker, and is a key part of the premium content you can expect from SXSW Online 2021."
Nelson's part of an initial list of featured speakers and conference sessions. Noteworthy speakers and session participants include another Austin icon, Matthew McConaughey, plus a stacked list of Emmy winners, Grammy recipients, Olympic athletes, philanthropists and businesspeople, highlighted by Sir Richard Branson, Samantha Bee, Chiquis, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Michael Lewis, Lil Dicky, Barry Jenkins, Cynthia Erivo, The Chainsmokers and Taraji P. Henson.
This year's event will also feature the digital equivalent of music showcases and film festival screenings.
Sessions will fall under one of seven conference themes: A New Urgency; Challenging Tech's Path Forward; Cultural Resilience in the Arts; The Rebirth of Business; Transforming the Entertainment Landscape; Connection in Disconnection; and An Uncharted Future.
For more on this year's themes and format, visit SXSW's website.
SXSW's bio of Nelson partially sums up why he's one of Texas' most successful and most loved creative minds.
"(Nelson) has earned every conceivable award as a musician and continues to thrive as a relevant and progressive musical and cultural force," it reads. "In recent years, he has delivered more than a dozen new albums, released a Top 10 New York Times' bestsellers book, again headlined Farm Aid, an event he co-founded in 1985, been honored by the Library of Congress with their Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, received his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul, headlined the annual Luck Reunion food and music festival during SXSW, and launched his cannabis companies Willie's Reserve and Willie's Remedy."