I have not been a fan of Country Music in recent years-perhaps a more accurate statement would be that I have not been a fan of recent “country” music. Last week, Lisa and I decided to take a chance and watch the Country Music Association awards. It was actually very good as more traditional performers and songs were included; I was happy to see the current stars in the audience clearly enjoy the more traditional country music. There was one extra special moment that we clearly enjoyed the most.
Back in the seventies, Jim Henson’s Muppets were huge. They had their own show, their own movie and their own hit song- “the Rainbow Connection.” This song was performed by Kermit the Frog as voiced by Jim Henson. I have always loved this song and even sing it in Kermit’s voice when I am by myself.
Willie Nelson took up Rainbow Connection in 2001 when he included it in an album of the same title. Nelson’s release was nominated for a Grammy as best country album that year.
Kacey Musgrave’s had a big hit this year titled. “Rainbow.” It would have been a logical choice to sing the night of the CMAs. Sometimes a moment is more important than a hit song and there was a moment waiting to appear between Musgraves and her hit song, Willie Nelson and his lifetime of work and a song choice based on rainbows.
Willie Nelson stood on stage the night of the CMAs, playing his Martin acoustic guitar-backed by a group of musicians playing stringed instruments. Willie is known for his sparse , stripped-down delivery perhaps epitomized by the 1975 album “Red-Headed Stranger.” The song “Rainbow Connection” has received acclaim as a sparse, understated song that just stays in our hearts. The song and the singer were a perfect match. As Willie quietly drew us in with that classic simple delivery, I felt like I was watching an aging boxer beautifully making his last fight.
Kacey Musgrave brings strength, grace, beauty and a wall of talent to the stage. As she slowly walked up to Nelson, taking the second verse of the song, authenticity merged with simplicity as beauty folded into grace; it was Kacey, Willie and a song about rainbows.
87 year-old Nelson had a little trouble catching his breath after each verse, however he phrased the story as he always has and even sang some harmony with Musgraves. Musgraves would occasionally touch Nelson’s arm to gently encourage him and stay connected. Her young, powerful voice gave the song strength and Nelson’s gave it depth. It was a moment we all want from music; it was just enough of everything.
I think we all need the occasional emotional moment as a reminder to the substance of life. When I can get that and see real country music make an entry into popular culture, then I am happy. Some would say that Willie Nelson was courageous, but not at his best; I would say he was never better. When it comes to music-and life-I value courage a lot more than physical perfection.