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Video: Willie Nelson: ‘I haven’t seen any side effects’ of pot

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    >>> the legendary willie nelson hass made more than 100 albums. he's helped lead the farm aid movement and also a longtime proponent for the legalization of marijuana, so it's only appropriate that the name of his new book is "roll me up and smoke me when i die, musings from the road." willie nelson , good morning. welcome back.

    >> nice to see you.

    >> let's talk about current events , election day , a couple weeks ago, a couple of states colorado and washington approved the legalization of recreational use of marijuana.

    >> we don't have to fly to amsterdam anymore.

    >> do you think you're going to be alive? you're closing in on 80, keeping in mind it's still against federal law to smoke pot . do you think you'll be alive when it's legal in all 50 states ?

    >> oh, i don't know. i would hope so. you never know about those things. that's a tricky situation.

    >> you don't like to predict the future?

    >> no, no. kink y friedman in the prologue to this book, and i'm paraphrasing, he said basically one of the reasons you didn't fit in so well in nashville was your pot-smoking. did you ever consider giving it up?

    >> oh, i gave it up a bunch of times.

    >> did you ever consider giving it up for good?

    >> not really because i haven't seen any side effects that really are harmful to me, you know. i'm the canary in the mine. i'm 80 years old. check me out, you know.

    >> you said something to our producer when he was talking to you about this book and i think he asked you the question. did you learn something about yourself, willie, when you wrote the book and i like what you said. i've always been pretty sure of where i am and who i am, so, no. why did you write the book?

    >> they offered me a bunch of money?

    >> willie, come on, make something up. is that really the reason?

    >> that's the main reason. kinky friedman came with a deal. i said, you know, you can't turn down kinky.

    >> you share the pages of the book with some people you love, family members.

    >> right.

    >> you let them write some things about you. did any of the stories that they wanted to tell surprise you?

    >> no, not really. they were all very complementary, and if they hadn't have been i would have taken them out because you have the last edit.

    >> your son micah, most of your kids are musicians, right?

    >> right.

    >> your son micah said, quote, i never felt as if i'm standing in his shadow. instead it's as if he blazed a trail of lights for me with which to cast my own shadowses. i think any father, i thought i would like that review.

    >> it is.

    >> did that come naturally to you as a waive parenting, or did you actually have to work at it?

    >> i told him to say that.

    >> seriously, it would have been easy to cast a big shadow over your kids. did you have to try to consciously not do that?

    >> no. i was trying mainly trying to go from day to day being me and i wanted them to do the same thing, they experienced along with me a lot of things that i was going through and saw how i was handling it, and hope i handled it okay so they will get some experience on how they might want to handle thing.

    >> were you happy so many of your kids went into music, something that pleased you?

    >> yeah. it's great to have your kids, especially if they are good and they are on stage with you and you're performing and people are liking them, yeah, that's as good as it gets.

    >> i think a lot of people will hear your name and think of the song you did before, "to all the girls i've loved before. ." but you've now been married to your current wife annie for 25 years. how is that working out?

    >> it's a day-to-day thank.

    >> want to make a phone call to make sure everything is all right? what's the secret in this one?

    >> i think we're both pretty independent and we allow each other to be independent and have our own thoughts.

    >> do you think she would say the same thing?

    >> i don't know. probably not.

    >> you are at the stage of your life now where people start to celebrate your lifetime achievements.

    >> yeah.

    >> does that freak you out a little bit?

    >> i don't know. i haven't really had time to think about whether i'm old or young yet. it's been pretty busy the last 40, 50 years, you know.

    >> i mean, 80, does that get your attention a little bit?

    >> it sort of did, but 60 did, too. i was -- when i was coming up on 60 i was saying, well, you know, what am i going to do, live or die? retire or keep going, and i felt the same thing at 70, and i'll probably move on at 80. i hope so.

    >> one of the reasons you'll move on, i just want people to know, you're a fitness nut.

    >> yeah.

    >> you work out a lot.

    >> yeah.

    >> and i think people have that other image of you and perhaps don't quite know that side of you.

    >> yeah.

    >> something you'll keep going?

    >> oh, i joan it, and it's my therapy, you know. it's my medicine, working out.

    >> you look good.

    >> thank you.

    >> and the book is fun.

    >> thank you.

TODAY books
updated 11/19/2012 5:48:40 PM ET 2012-11-19T22:48:40

Country music legend Willie Nelson tells his side of the story in “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” detailing the fabled outlaw’s notorious past, his timeless music and his outlook on life. Here’s an excerpt.

A Better Way to Make a Buck

One day while I was picking cotton, on a farm by the highway that ran between Abbott and Hillsboro—it was about a hundred degrees in the hot Texas sun, and there I was pulling along a sack of cotton—a Cadillac came by with its windows rolled up. There was something about that scene that made me start thinking more about playing a guitar. Here I was picking cotton in the heat and thinking, There’s a better way to make a dollar, and a living, than picking cotton. Sister Bobbie and I picked cotton on all the farms around Abbott every summer and every day after school. In Abbott, the schools let out at noon during harvest season, so we could all work in the fields. That’s how we made our extra money. I did a lot more farmwork than Sister Bobbie, things like baling hay and working in the cotton gin and on the corn sheller, all of which was very hard work but in a lot of ways was good for me because it made me work harder on my guitar.

My next-door neighbor was Mrs. Bressler, a devout Christian lady who was very good friends with my grandmother. They lived next door to each other in Abbott all the time I was growing up there. She told me when I was about six years old that anyone who drank beer or smoked cigarettes—anyone who used alcohol or tobacco, really—was “going to hell.” She really believed that, and for a while I did too. I had started drinking and smoking by the time I was six years old, so if that was true, I’ve been hell-bound since I was barely out of kindergarten! I would take a dozen eggs from our chicken, walk to the grocery store, and trade the dozen eggs for a pack of Camel cigarettes. I liked the little camel on the package—after all, I was only six. They were marketing directly to me! After that I liked Lucky Strikes, Chesterfields, even tried the menthol cigarettes, because they said it was a lot easier on your throat. That’s a lot of horses__t. Cigarettes killed my mother, my father, my stepmother, and my stepfather—half the people in my family were killed by cigarettes. I watched my dad die after lying in bed with oxygen the last couple of years of his life. Cigarettes have killed more people than all the wars put together I think. But like my old buddy Billy Cooper used to say, “It’s my mouth. I’ll haul coal in it if I want to.” I think I’d have been better off with the coal.

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I tried a hundred times to quit smoking. By the time I actually did quit smoking cigarettes, I had already started smoking pot, which I picked up from a couple of old musician buddies that I had run into in Fort Worth. The first time I smoked pot I kept waiting for something to happen. I kept puffing and puffing, waiting for something to happen, but nothing happened. So I went back to cigarettes and whiskey, which made s__t happen. As I started playing the clubs around Texas, I ran into the pills: the white crosses, the yellow turnarounds, and the black mollies. I never liked any of the pills or speed, because I didn’t need speed; I was already speeding. So I quit everything but pot. Cigarettes were the hardest. My lungs were killing me from smoking everything from cedar post to grapevine, but I wasn’t getting high off the cigarettes, so it was good-bye, Chesterfields, and I haven’t smoked since. It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Video: Practicing the 'Tao of Willie' (on this page)

The day I quit, the day that I decided that I was through with f__ing cigarettes, I took out the pack of cigarettes that I had just bought, opened it, threw them all away, rolled up twenty joints, replaced the twenty Chesterfields, and put the pack back in my shirt pocket, where I always kept my cigarettes, because half of the habit, for me, was reaching for and lighting something.

The Night Owl and Bud Fletcher


The Night Owl was hell—at least that’s what Mrs. Bressler told me. It was the first place that my best friend, Zeke Varnon, and I used to hang out, get drunk, and play music. There was a lot of drinking, smoking, dancing, cussing, and fighting. Margie and Lundy ran the Night Owl. In the middle of all this confusion and fighting was music. It’s what brought everyone there. It was one of the first beer joints that I played. Me, Sister Bobbie, Whistle Watson, and a little harelipped drummer. Bud Fletcher, who was Sister Bobbie’s husband—she married him while she was a senior in high school—was a very good friend of mine. He was my first promoter/booker. He was about half hustler. We had a band called “Bud Fletcher and the Texans.” We played the Night Owl, Chief Edwards, the Bloody Bucket, and every beer joint in Texas at least once. Bud was the bandleader, but he was not a musician, even though he looked like he was. He was in the band with us and he played upright bass. Well, not really played it. He spun it and kicked it a lot, but I never heard one note of music come out of it.

I would always hock my guitar during the week at a pawnshop in Waco and drink and gamble up all the money, and Bud would always have to go get my guitar out of hock before the weekend so we could go play our music gigs. I used to say I hocked my guitar so many times that the pawnbroker played it better than I did. But Bud would always get it out of hock, because he would have already booked us in a place, and we needed to go play.

From ROLL ME UP AND SMOKE ME WHEN I DIE, by Willie Nelson. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright © 2012 by Willie Nelson.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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