Singing a new tune, Wil­lie backs Beto

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Ed Pilk­ing­ton Austin, Texas

Wil­lie Nel­son took to the stage in Austin last Satur­day night wear­ing a “Beto for Texas” cap over his trade­mark braided hair. It didn’t last long – within min­utes he had flung the hat into the crowd and re­placed it with his trusted red ban­dana.

That Nel­son was there in the heart of the state cap­i­tal to lend the power of his leg­end to Beto O’Rourke (both pic­tured), the Demo­crat who is roil­ing the state with an in­sur­gent at­tempt to un­seat Ted Cruz from his US Se­nate seat, re­mained be­yond doubt. He made no ef­fort to re­move his Beto T-shirt.

But he let his mu­sic do the talk­ing, with a new song that left lit­tle to the imag­i­na­tion.

“If you don’t like who’s in there, vote ‘em out/ That’s what elec­tion day is all about / When they are gone, we will sing and shout”.

Nel­son has been the un­of­fi­cial fig­ure­head of Texas since his re­turn from Nashville to Austin in 1972. With lyrics that ad­dress the daily strug­gles of cow­boys, farm­ers and lovers, he has man­aged to achieve the im­pos­si­ble: at­tract­ing the ado­ra­tion of Tex­ans across gen­er­a­tions, span­ning city and coun­try­side and bridg­ing the ev­er­widen­ing po­lit­i­cal di­vide. This time, though, it was too much for many Cruz-sup­port­ing Tex­ans. Pre­vi­ously diehard Wil­lie fans erupted in anger after the Austin rally was an­nounced, grip­ing that his de­ci­sion to ap­pear for O O’Rourke Rourke – Nel­son Nel­son’s s first pub­lic per­for­mance for a po­lit­i­cal can­di­date – was be­yond the pale. But at 85, that didn’t seem to bother Wil­lie. His em­brace of pro­gres­sive and lib­eral pol­i­tics is decades old, stretch­ing back to the fa­mous time he got high on the roof of Jimmy Carter’s White House.

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