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2019 Grammys: Willie Nelson on the Frank Sinatra songs that led to his latest win

2019 Grammys: Willie Nelson on the Frank Sinatra songs that led to his latest win
Willie Nelson, photographed in Hollywood in October, won the Grammy Award for traditional pop vocal album for "My Way," his salute to Frank Sinatra. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Willie Nelson’s Grammy win on Sunday in the traditional pop vocal album category for “My Way” recognizes a project that grew out of his lifelong admiration for self-described “saloon singer” Frank Sinatra.

“Frank Sinatra was a friend and my favorite singer,” Nelson, 85, told The Times in October about the album, which includes 11 songs closely associated with the Chairman of the Board.

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Given that Sinatra recorded hundreds of songs during his half-century-plus recording career, and that Nelson has been listening to him for nearly as long, it seemed natural to ask how long it took him to zero in on the ones he thought best suited his own vocal and musical temperament.

“It wasn't difficult for me to go in there and find 10 or 12 Sinatra songs that I’d really love to do,” Nelson said with a smile. “It probably would have taken all of five minutes.

“It’s the same thing with the Gershwin album,” he said. “When I did that, I just Googled ‘Frank Sinatra and Gershwin’ and saw what he did and thought, ‘That’s cool — I'll do that.’ ”

As for the album’s title track, which was written by Paul Anka with Sinatra in mind and became his latter-day theme song, Nelson said, “ ‘My Way’ — that was Sinatra's attitude, and it’s a good one.”

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