Another Country with Willie Nelson
It's 1974 or 1975 I'm still a kid and there's a student comes to our church, name of John Fitzpatrick. He loves music. He's at the university and he tells me about the gigs he's been to. At the time he liked it better - and if I'm honest, so did I - if the music had a Christian edge. It meant we could enjoy it more and not feel as guilty as we did when we dug the Stones. Do you know where I'm coming from?
So John got excited one day at the Youth Fellowship and tells me that Willie Nelson has brought out an album called 'The Troublemaker.' It's all Gospel songs. What excited me more was that Willie was covering half the hymns in a Hymn Book we used to have in the Gospel Hall called Redemption Songs. But Willie was singing them like we'd never heard them sung... Suddenly I was finding myself saying "Forget Youth Praise, let's keep the old fogeys' hymn book and sing it the Willie way." "Sweet Bye and Bye," "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood," "Shall We Gather At The River" (my Dad's favourite) and "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder." Man, these songs were no longer torturing me, they were released into glorious, abundant life by Willie Nelson. Thank you John, thank you Willie Nelson and thank you Sankey and Moody.
I met up with the great man on his tour bus in Edinburgh recently and you can hear that as well as the music of Willie on Another Country, all on Friday from 8pm. Every Prime Minister , it was said, needs a Willie. Not much that Margaret Thatcher said I believed - but she got it right there.
Listen to Another Country, Friday, 2005 on BBC Radio Scotland.