Has there ever been a song that captures the spirit of travel more than Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again? For Miracle, Jolene, and I it has become a refrain to our travels—the song we played when we first went on a weekend together, a song that topped our wedding playlist, the song we played when we left home in August of last year. It was the first song I put on the ever-growing playlist I’ve blogged about in each state (and one of three songs that don’t mention a locale on my playlist). After each breakdown, after each extended stay, whenever we feel like we’re too weary, we put on this song.
Nelson wrote the song just a year after our sweet bus, Adie, came off the production line. He penned the song on a barf bag while flying with the producer of his first feature film, Honeysuckle Rose. It topped the charts and just five years later, I remember my family and I singing it as we toted our Coleman pop-up trailer to the American west.
Well, Willie is closing in on 90 years old now and the song has been a staple in his performances as he has toured with the family band for damn near sixty years. I’ve heard him play it live and I’ve hard any number of bootleg versions. Each time, I get that tingle down my spine, that itching in my feet. On the road again / can’t wait to get back on that road again.
I know I’ll come back to this song again and again. But, here, in this final song for a playlist that covered three countries and cataloged each state, I have a bookends to On the Road Again. Earlier this year Nelson dropped a new album, A Beautiful Time. It’s fun, introspective, and elegiac. He openly reminisces about his long-departed friends, carries on about poker night, talks about his place in the American songbook. And in the titular track, he sings:
If I ever get old, I’ll still love the road
Still love the way that it winds
Now when the last song’s been played
I’ll look back and say
I sure had a beautiful time
Same here, Willie.