At 65, Willie Nelson is an icon. His headband-and-pigtails could be trademarked if it was in him to bother, and neither his IRS run-in nor his adventures in the marijuana trade will stop the man who toked up on the roof of Carter's White House from receiving his Kennedy Center honor this December— no doubt with more enthusiasm than his immediate predecessor in this modestly countercultural coup, his longtime Columbia labelmate Bob Dylan. However suspect, this analogy goes a long way. True, Dylan was promulgating his songs as a youthcult avatar while the older man still hewed to the Nashville system of selling "Four Walls" to Faron Young and "Crazy" to Patsy Cline, finally cracking the hit parade with a cover of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" after 15 years of major publishing bucks and failed record deals. But as Nelson entertained a solidly middle-class crowd at Newark's New Jersey Performing Arts Center last month, what came clear was the overriding link between these two great American songwriters: both now earn their livings, and find reason for living, as road musicians. Maybe if Nelson has a near-death experience... More >>>