Willie Nelson and supporting fans sang together at the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the Austin resident and country music legend on April 20, a counterculture holiday nationally associated with marijuana use.
The monument was unveiled around 4:20 p.m., with the number 420 holding particular significance within cannabis culture. Nelson is an activist for the legalization of marijuana and sits as a co-chair on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The bronze statue depicts Nelson sitting relaxedly with guitar in hand.
Erection of the statue was funded by Capital Area Statues, Inc., a private organization that works to celebrate the history and culture of Texas through public sculptures. It was placed in downtown Austin at the corner of Lavaca Street and Wille Nelson Boulevard, adjacent to the Moody Theater, the current home of the PBS music program Austin City Limits. Nelson received one of his first big breaks when he performed during the recording of the pilot episode of Austin City Limits in 1974.
According to Lawrence Wright, president of Capital Area Statues, Inc., the date of the unveiling was a total coincidence as his group had no idea of the political connotation associated with April 20.
“Once we realized what we were stating we just decided to roll with it,” he said, referring to the addition of the planned 4:20 p.m. unveiling of the statue. “It’s a part of keeping Austin weird.”
The event came one day after the release of Nelson’s new single “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” a collaboration between Nelson and music artists Snoop Dogg and Kris Kristofferson.
Among people celebrating the unveiling were Kristofferson and city of Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell, both of whom spoke about Nelson’s major impact on the country music world and the city of Austin through his success.
“He is the man who really more than, I think, any other person makes Austin the live music capital of the world,” Leffingwell said.
Arising from humble beginnings, Nelson, 78, has gone on to become the recipient of 10 Grammy Awards, nine CMA awards and dozens of other honors for his albums, of which he has sold about 40 million copies.
Acknowledging his fame at the unveiling, Nelson joked to a fan who suggested he run for president.
“I would run, but I might win,” he said.
Nelson’s personal style is what inspired the private group to originally have the statue created, Wright said.
“It’s about this sense of engagement that you feel,” he said. “Willie is a superstar, but unlike most people in that category, he is down to earth. He really relates to people, and we love that quality of his.”
Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: Statue celbrating music icon Willie Nelson unveiled