Willie Nelson will receive literary honor

Willie Nelson will become the first songwriter inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Step aside, Bob Dylan: Willie Nelson is also a literary star.

Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that drew criticism from writers of prose and poetry who were upset to see the prize go to a musician. Now Nelson, the country music legend, will become the first songwriter to be inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters, one of the most prestigious literary organizations in the Lone Star State.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Nelson will be riding high, joining 18 other inductees, including novelist Bret Anthony Johnston, playwright Kirk Lynn and screenwriter Richard Linklater, in the new class, which will be honored in San Antonio this April. There’s no word as of yet whether Nelson will attend the ceremony or if he’ll be on the road again with his band.

In a news release, the institute offered this justification for the Red Headed Stranger’s selection: “He’s Willie. Do we need to say anything else?”


The institute’s president, Steven L. Davis of Texas State University, gave the Dallas Morning News a fuller explanation. It turns out that songwriters weren’t always on the institute’s mind.

“We began having discussions among the TIL council about quality writers whose works don’t always result in ‘books’ — playwrights, screenwriters, and, of course, songwriters,” Davis said. “The best writers in these genres are every bit as accomplished as authors of books — and yet the TIL has traditionally overlooked them, instead bestowing membership on authors of books.”

Nelson’s selection required a rule change to make songwriters eligible for induction into the institute. Nelson has cowritten several books, including “It’s a Long Story: My Life” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” but to be blunt, he’s better known for writing songs like “Crazy” and “Hello Walls.”


Get the latest news and notes from our Book Club.