PHOTOS: Willie Nelson Through the Years

Grammy winner Buddy Cannon is Willie Nelson’s longtime collaborator and producer. And when Nelson fans listen to his latest album, Last Man Standing, it’s Nelson text messages they’re hearing.

Texting song lyrics to one another is a practice they’ve had since Nelson, 85, texted Cannon the idea for their 2012 hit, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”

“I don’t think Willie has ever considered how he writes. He just writes,” Cannon tells “When we’re doing this stuff, it’s without a plan, and sometimes Willie gets fired up to write and starts sending me stuff when he’s been in Maui for about seven or eight days in a two-week stay over there. I guess he starts getting rested up, and his mind starts churning, and he just starts sending me stuff like he’ll send me three or four lines. Sometimes he’ll send me what is pretty much a complete song.”

But for as long as they’ve known one another, Cannon isn’t quite sure when to send Nelson a birthday card.

“It’s either April 29 or 30,” Cannon guesses. “I think officially it’s April 30. But there’s some question. I think he said that his birth certificate says that it was something like 12:15 a.m. on April 30. But I believe he said it was one of his aunts who said he was born just before midnight. He doesn’t know for sure. He just celebrates two days.”

Enjoy a series of photos of Nelson through the years:

  1. Willie Nelson signs with RCA Records in 1964

  2. Willie Nelson at Hotel Taft in 1967

  3. Willie Nelson live at Los Angeles’ Palomino Club in 1970

  4. Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Joan Baez in 1974

  5. Willie Nelson And Waylon Jennings in 1978

  6. Willie Nelson live in Chicago in 1978

  7. Willie Nelson in 1984

  8. Willie Nelson in 1986

  9. Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 1988

  10. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Jesse Jackson

  11. Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Kris Kristofferson

  12. Neil Young and Willie Nelson in 2003

  13. Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow rehearse for the Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute: A Celebration Of Friends and Family

  14. Willie Nelson at VH1’s Willie Nelson and Friends

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc
  15. Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Jay Leno in 1991

  16. The Highwaymen in 1992

  17. Willie Nelson at the 2012 CMT Music Awards

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

    Jason Merritt/Getty Images
  18. Willie Nelson at Luck Reunion 2017

  19. Willie Nelson live at Farm Aid 2017

  20. Willie Nelson at the Luck Reunion 2018 Welcome Dinner

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.