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Pass Me a Joint: Nathaniel Rateliff Celebrates Willie Nelson's Birthday

Nathaniel Rateliff is wishing Willie Nelson a happy birthday.
Nathaniel Rateliff is wishing Willie Nelson a happy birthday.
Rett Rogers

It's April 29, which means it's Willie Nelson's birthday.

To celebrate the occasion and honor a bona fide songwriting hero, friend Nathaniel Rateliff dropped a new track called "Willie's Birthday" back on April 24. Today, Rateliff released a Rett Rogers-directed music video for the song.

"The world has gone crazy, but we've still got Willie, and all the good things he's done for us here," sings Rateliff, in a spot-on imitation of Nelson's songwriting style.

The three-chord song is reminiscent of Nelson's early work, replete with a plucky country bass line and a steel guitar. It includes harmonies from Bobbie Nelson, Mickey Raphael, Lukas and Micah Nelson, Nikki Lane, Courtney Marie Andrews, members of the Night Sweats and others — all remotely recorded, respecting social-distancing guidelines.

With star-wipes galore and Rateliff singing in the foothills and on a tractor, along with footage of all the other musicians recording from their own homes, the music video is about as joyful a birthday present as anyone could give these days.

The song is part of Rateliff's "Marigold Singles," a series of collaborations with legendary musicians that he's selling as a fundraiser for his foundation, the Marigold Project. "Willie's Birthday" is the B-side track; the A-side will include a Rateliff duet with Nelson. This will be the second in the series; the first was a tear-jerker collaboration with the late John Prine.

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"Willie's Birthday" was scheduled to drop on vinyl, but printing was held up, so the record will come out this summer, on Rateliff's website.

Until then, you can light up a joint, play the video, and celebrate Willie's legacy of incredible music and heroic advocacy.

Update April 29, 2020: An earlier version of this story, about the single, was published on April 24, 2020.

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