GRAPHIC NOVELS

Willie Nelson: A Graphic History

NBM. (Biographies). Sept. 2020. 88p. ISBN 9781681122625. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. biog
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Starting with how he got the childhood nickname “Booger Red,” writer Kirsch’s new graphic biography spins the extraordinary journey of American singer/songwriter Willie Nelson (b. 1933) like a popular record. The pitch and tempo of Willie’s life supply the backbeat, from learning to hold a crowd’s attention with country swinger Bob Wills, to disc jockey positions that allowed him to practice recording and even release his own music, and his maturation as a subtle, honest songwriter. Finally arriving in Nashville, he achieved a No. 1 country hit with Hello Walls, leading to Patsy Cline’s immortal recording of Crazy. Affairs, divorce, artistic failures, and his general sense of nonconformity brought Willie to another dry spot in his career—poor-selling albums and a major house fire. Out of this personal crossroads came the rise of his brand of outlaw country and hard-won, unequivocal success, even as legal and personal misfortunes continued to befall the ever-resilient musician.
VERDICT Teaming with many different artists, Kirsch’s work lovingly delivers a visual concert for the famed musical icon, capturing the rhythm of his life in black and white with a “greatest hits” approach utilizing Willie’s own lyrics for insight into pivotal moments.

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