Men's Journal

Life Advice from Willie Nelson

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This interview first appeared in the April 2008 issue of Men’s Journal.

What one thing should every man know about women?

Well, Ray Price told me that the only thing he’d learned about women is that money makes them horny. I couldn’t argue with that.

What’s the worst physical pain you’ve ever experienced?

I was touring in Hawaii about 20 years ago, and I just got to running — first time in I don’t know how long. Then I hit the water and swam. My left lung completely collapsed. I instinctively knew what had happened and was far enough offshore to get a little concerned. But the real pain was in the hospital. They stick something through your back to pump the lung up, and whatever decibel your scream is, that’s how they know they’ve penetrated the lung. I peaked that sucker.

Do you have a recurring dream?

No, not really. I had a dream one night — the funniest dream I ever had. This guy said, “I want to talk to Tex Cobb.” I had been hanging out with Tex, so I guess that’s why he said it. I said, “He’s not here.” And the guy said, “Well, where is he?” And I said, “I don’t know.” And the guy just out of the clear blue said, “You’re about 90 percent smart-ass, ain’t you?” And I heard myself in my sleep say, “Well, you son of a bitch, you come over here. I’ll hit you in the goddamn nose.” And then he said, “Make that 100 percent.” I woke myself up laughing.

What’s the best cure for a hangover?

I don’t think there is any good thing for a hangover except suffering a little bit.

What’s the best cure for a heartbreak?

More hangovers.

Which commandment do you break most often?

Well, I try to keep “Thou shalt not kill.” The rest of them I’m kind of shaky on.

What would you do with a time machine?

I’d go back to the horse-and-buggy days, get me a good horse and a saddle and a guitar, and take off and ride about five miles a day. I’d build a fire and play or write a song. Then I’d get up and ride five more miles.

Where’s the strangest place you ever woke up?

I’d been drinking in a place called the Night Owl, in West, Texas, and then caught a ride up to Hillsboro to a restaurant where a lot of trucks stopped. Well, I lay down in the back of one of those trucks and woke up the next morning as the driver was pulling into the stockyards in Fort Worth. I’m just glad I didn’t crawl in with a bunch of longhorns.

What song do you have to hear once a week?

“Chiseled in Stone,” by Vern Gosdin, from the ’80s. If you don’t know it, it’s not anything I could tell you. When you hear it you’ll say, “Okay, now I know what Willie’s talking about.”

What was your first car?

An old ’36 Ford wagon me and my friend Zeke bought from my brother-in-law for $195. One time I’d gone inside to see a girl and Zeke stayed out in the car. Some kid saw gas leaking from the tank — he might’ve had a beer or two, I don’t know — but he said, “What would happen if I put a match to this gas tank?” and Zeke said, “Well, you crazy son of a bitch, it’d catch on fire.” So the kid struck a match and Zeke came running to tell me the car was burning up. That was the end of that ’36 Ford.

What’s the biggest bet you ever made?

Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson and I gamble all the time, on dominoes and chess and poker. It doesn’t really matter how much, because we wind up, even before the night’s over, trading hundred-dollar bills. Those are some real fun guys to hang out with.

What’s the most cherished possession you ever lost?

My son. I ain’t never lost nothing else that wasn’t replaceable.

What one experience do you want to have before you die?

I would be real greedy to ask for anything else. I’ve played music and sung with just about everybody I wanted to. Except for Barbra Strei­sand. It’s not too late for that.