Willie Nelson‘s older sister, Bobbie Nelson, passed away at the age of 91 on March 10. The brother and sister were close their entire lives with Bobbie playing piano with Willie for over 50 years.
In the wake of her death, fans of the Nelsons have uncovered some touching passages written by Willie about their relationship and their early life together.
Bobbie and Willie Nelson Did Not Have an “Easy Life” But They Cherished Each Other.
In his autobiographical book of life advice, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart, said that he and his sister’s childhood “was not an easy life.” He describes working next to his sister at the early age of three or four, in the cotton fields.
Bobbie and Willie Nelson grew up in Abbott, Texas, born at the tail-end of the Great Depression. As with many at that time, they experienced the hardships of poverty along with their grandparents, who cared for them.
Willie, who calls his grandmother “Mama Nelson,” described her throwing ice water on her grandchildren to wake them up in the morning. “With chores and work waiting to be done,” he wrote, “she didn’t have time for coddling sleepy-headed children.”
“Sister Bobbie says when I was a toddler, I was so bent on roaming that Mama Nelson had to stake me out in the backyard on a rope like a wandering goat,” he shared.
He describes he and Bobbie’s work alongside their grandparents “who were desperate for money.” The “Always On My Mind” singer elaborated, writing, “It wasn’t an easy life, but it was the one I was born into.”
“There’s a guy with a lot of lines on his face in my mirror every morning,” Nelson also reflected, “but the boy from Abbott is there, too.”
Willie described his bond with “Sister Billie” saying that they bonded over “the great mysteries of the universe” together. “When I was a boy in Abbott,” Willie wrote, “the stars seemed closer, the fireflies shone brighter, and the mockingbirds had yet to hear the car alarms they imitate today.”
While Willie’s career took off and he found critical and commercial success in his later years some things never changed between him and his late sister. “I’m as close to Sister Bobbie as when she held me on her knee,” he revealed.
Bobbie’s marriage fell apart around 1955 and she nearly lost her three sons due to the “scandalous” nature of a woman playing in Honky-Tonks, NPR reports. “That was the hardest part of my life,” she said of those early years. “And I couldn’t play with Willie at that time, because I wasn’t supposed to even enter into a club. They would not have agreed to let me have my children back.”
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After her children reached adulthood, Bobbie joined Willie Nelson on tour in the 1970s. Eventually, she and Willie formed the Willie Nelson Family Band. She played piano with her beloved brother for 50 years.
While we are saddened about Bobbie Nelson’s passing, it’s a solace to learn more about her time on this earth, especially if it’s from one of the people she loved most on it. We’ve got Willie Nelson and the Nelson family in our thoughts as they push through this difficult time.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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