Willie Nelson and Paul Simon are two of the most respected singer-songwriters of all time. The music giants have both forged bodies of work that almost any artist would be jealous of so when you put there two talents together what arrives is an unstoppable force—which this 1993 rendition of ‘Graceland’ at Willie Nelson’s 60th birthday in 1993 is a demonstration of.
The meeting wasn’t the first time that the two close friends had come together to perform the track and, when Nelson was brought into the mix, another level of magic was added to the track thanks to the incredible chemistry that the duo shared.
They first performed the titular track from Simon’s 1986 seventh solo studio album a year before when Nelson joined him on stage for a rendition of the song at Farm Aid in 1992. Then, twelve months later on May 22nd, 1993, shortly after Willie turned 60, he was joined by Simon for an incredible version of the track on Saturday Night Live as well as duetting on Nelson’s ‘Still Is Moving To Me’.
Following this duet, Nelson was then approached by CBS bosses who wanted to celebrate his career with a TV special which was titled Willie Nelson: The Big Six-0 and once more he was joined by Simon for a joyous performance of the majestic ‘Graceland’.
The name of the track, which is, of course, a tribute to after Elvis’ historic mansion, was originally meant to just be a placeholder for the track but there was something about ‘Graceland’ that Simon found it impossible to shake. He later said: “I couldn’t replace it. I thought, Maybe I’m supposed to go to Graceland. Maybe I’m supposed to go on a trip and see what I’m writing about, and I did.”
Simon describes that trip within the track, one which saw him drive to Graceland from Louisiana via Route 61, and the lyrics provide his thoughts on the vast beauty of the countryside: “The Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar.”
Ten years on in April 2003, the pair would reunite once more for Willie’s Big 7-0, a concert that was held at New York’s Beacon Theater and featured Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, Shelby Lynne and Wyclef Jean. However, the duo instead decided to perform another Simon track when they shared the stage on this occasion with them opting for ‘Homeward Bound’.
Enjoy their duet from 1993 below of ‘Graceland’ which beautifully captures one of our favourite bromances to date which is still going strong today.