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Bobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s sister and bandmate, dies at 91

"Her elegance, grace, beauty and talent made this world a better place," read a tribute on Willie Nelson's Instagram page.
/ Source: TODAY

Bobbie Nelson, Willie Nelson's beloved sister, bandmate and co-author, died Thursday at age 91.

The pianist and singer, who performed alongside her famous brother for nearly 50 years, passed away "peacefully and surrounded by family" in Austin, Texas, on Thursday morning, revealed a post on Willie Nelson’s Instagram page. A cause of death was not given.

"Her elegance, grace, beauty and talent made this world a better place. She was the first member of Willie’s band, as his pianist and singer," said the post. "Our hearts are broken and she will be deeply missed. But we are so lucky to have had her in our lives. Please keep her family in your thoughts and give them the privacy they need at this time."

Bobbie Nelson's passing comes a year and a half after she and her Willie Nelson, now 88, published a memoir about their unbreakable bond, “Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band,” co-written by David Ritz.

When the siblings spoke to TODAY's Harry Smith to promote the book in November 2020, Willie Nelson gushed about his "little" sister's musical talented, which was apparent in childhood.

Willie Nelson Performs At ACL Live
Bobbie Nelson, left, and Willie Nelson pose backstage before their New Years Eve concert at ACL Live on December 31, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Gary Miller / Getty Images

"My little sister was always on the piano doing great music. I would sit there on the piano stool beside her and try to figure out what the hell she was doing," the 10-time Grammy winner recalled, laughing.

During their chat, the pair lovingly disagreed about which sibling was the better musician. After Bobbie Nelson praised her brother for being "just born" with talent, Wille Nelson demurred.

"Sister Bobbie is 10 times a better musician than I am,” he insisted, jokingly adding, “I’m a little better con man, I think.”

Bobbie Nelson told TODAY that her younger brother always supported her through good and bad times in her life, including several failed marriages and the deaths of two of her sons.

"He was that guy. He was always that guy. And he knew that I had had a rough deal and he was there for me," she said.

Willie Nelson's dreams came true in 1973 when, after decades of asking Bobbie Nelson to join his band, she finally agreed. She first performed on her brother's gospel album, “The Troublemaker,” and then the album “Shotgun Willie," before hitting the road to perform with him on tours for the next several decades.

But the "Whiskey River" singer wasn't the only one thrilled with the new arrangement.

"It was wonderful," Bobbie Nelson gushed of playing her in brother's band. "I loved it very much. It gave me an opening into today's world."

During the interview, the musician, who in 2017 released her only solo album “Audiobiography,” called being a musician "a wonderful way to live."

"If you go to the piano and the guitar and play music, that's what I want to do ...It doesn't get any better than that."